Nathan Hutton
Mt Barker High School
Runner-up – South Australia

‘Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’

In his writings from Gallipoli, Australian war correspondent, Charles W Bean, created a stereotypical image of the ANZACs which promoted their bravery and disguised the realities of war. He wrote at a time when Australia still had very strong ties to Britain and minority groups did not have the same rights as Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males. He portrayed the ANZACs as heroes from the bush rather than ordinary or "everyday" people and created a sense of national identity and pride in Australians. The ANZAC spirit incorporated ideals of "mateship, courage and perseverance which were established as hallmarks of Australian servicemen" but excluded minority groups such as indigenous people, migrants and women and ignored some of the more negative behaviours of the ANZACs

The ANZAC spirit can include minority groups while still representing "mateship, courage, compassion, endurance, selflessness, loyalty, resourcefulness, devotion, independence, ingenuity, audacity, coolness, larrikinism and humour … and the Australian ethos of the volunteer" . The spirit can be seen in many situations where ordinary people, drawn together by crisis, can do extraordinary things. This can be supported with many examples from the original ANZACs, and at other times in Australian society.

The 332,000 volunteers who served in World War I can be considered ordinary and they did not all fit the stereotype as created by Bean. They came from diverse backgrounds, locations and occupations. In the trenches they lived in horrific conditions and faced great danger. They acted as many ordinary people act in crisis. Some of them were cowards. Some of them could not cope. Some of them did extraordinary things.

William Sing and Caleb Shang two Chinese Australians, are powerful examples of this. Sing a Chinese labourer born in Queensland, was quick to volunteer. He was an excellent sniper and a brave soldier. He killed more than 150 Turks and won a duel with Abdul the Terrible, a Turkish sniper. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for bravery as he was "rich in courage, spirit and loyalty to his country". Shang was the most decorated Chinese Australian in Word War 1 and was awarded the DCM. He was a runner who "volunteered for dangerous patrols in enemy country".

About 500 indigenous Australians took part in almost every campaign in World War 1. William Irwin and Albert Knight were both awarded the DCM for outstanding actions. William Rawlings was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and was killed in action in 1918.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick a working class man with a sense of humour, loved life. He became the symbol of bravery of the ANZACs. He faced great danger when working as a stretcher bearer rescuing many men from the line of fire using his donkey. He continued to do this work until he was killed on 19 May 1915 aged only 22. Despite his extraordinary acts of bravery and self-sacrifice he did not receive a Victoria Cross for bravery as the British officers regarded him as a larrikin rather than a hero.

Jim Martin, the youngest ANZAC at fourteen lied about his age to "answer the call" and enlist for the adventure and to serve Britain. He was to display endurance and persistence, suffering from typhoid which claimed his life. . His story is typical of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things because of his determination and youth. The notion of ordinary can thus mean many things rather than a stereotypical image. This diversity encompasses the most well known Anzac to the youngest, Australians of Asian background to those of indigenous origins.

The ANZAC spirit has been used to define Australians in crisis but courage and compassion are not defined by nationality. This could also be seen in the Turkish enemies when they exchanged gifts with the ANZACs and agreed to the armistice to bury the dead. One extraordinary act was that of an unarmed Turkish soldier who carried a wounded English captain to the trenches before returning to his own side. This has been described as a "courageous and beautiful act … by a brave and heroic soldier". A statue of "Respect to a Turkish Soldier" has been erected in his honour.

It is possible to see the ANZAC spirit emerging in Australian society in times of crisis. but we should not limit our thinking to stereotypes. "We can see in our Anzac what we want to see". Although very different, some comparisons can be made between Gallipoli and the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires of February 16 1983 . As an Adelaide Hills resident, I live in constant fear of bushfires. Sirens wailing in the summer remind me of the threat as volunteer firefighters are called "to arms". These 1983 bushfires are an example of a time when individuals and communities worked together in the face of terrible danger and afterwards when dealing with tragedy and heartbreak.

The Ash Wednesday bushfires provide outstanding examples of the ANZAC spirit as the volunteers of the South Australian Country Fire Service gave their utmost, and often their lives. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things sometimes unable to know if their own families and properties were safe while they fought to protect the lives and properties of strangers. These men and women from many different backgrounds and occupations were recognised for their tireless work (sometimes working 18 hour shifts) and for their sacrifice.

The volunteer soldiers faced a terrible enemy, ferocious and unpredictable and they lived and fought in terrible conditions. They looked out for each other demonstrating mateship, bravery and compassion while fighting to support Britain. The volunteers of the Country Fire Service also faced a terrible enemy – not human, but a fierce, relentless fire capable of widespread destruction and death.

Like the soldiers in Gallipoli, there may have been unreported acts of cowardice and not obeying orders but there were also many incredible stories of human dedication and bravery. It is likely, that as in World War 1, negative acts were not highlighted by the media so that the efforts of the volunteers were not denigrated. They were, after all, just ordinary people doing extraordinary things some of whom paid the ultimate price as did the soldiers in Gallipoli.

The following lines from a poem by Bill Dettmer were written after the devastation of 1983 Ash Wednesday fires but the reader could be forgiven for thinking it was written about Gallipoli.

…volunteers collapsed, exhausted by the strain

Asleep where they had fallen, soon to rise and fight again.

But all throughout Australia, no-one really had to ask

With the cry of "she’ll be right" the people got down to the task

We should not restrict our thinking about the ANZAC spirit to the stereotype created by Bean. The qualities can be demonstrated in all people in times of crisis. There are similarities between the original ANZACs and the volunteers of the Country Fire Service. Both groups volunteered for a specific reason and were bound together in a time of terrible crisis. They were ordinary people. Some could not cope with the situation. Some of them did extraordinary things.

Appendix 1

Ash Wednesday

by Bill Dettmer

The tail end of the news I heard, before I went to bed,

Said 40 houses had been lost and 17 were dead.

We’d listened in for hours, since we heard the first report

Of some who’d safely raced away, how sadly, some were caught.

Form Anglesea to Gisborne, from Belgrave down to Lorne,

Came stories of heroic deeds and pictures, wildly drawn.

Through the night as many slept, so safe within their beds

So many more lay terrified, so many prayers were said.

Then smoke came over Melbourne bringing ash to settle down

Ash from many shattered dreams, the last remains of towns.

Some spent the night on beaches, some others slept in schools.

Some cried "this is the work of god", but no, the work of fools.

And still the fire rages across two parched, drought stricken states.

A family died together. A man died with his mates.

The morning came, no fanfare, no birds around to sing.

Warm early rays of sunlight showed hell that fire brings.

The "first editions" soon appeared with horror all the more.

The number of the dead had risen now to thirty-four.

Off roads, the volunteers collapsed, exhausted from the strain

Asleep where they had fallen, soon to rise again.

But all throughout Australia, no-one really had to ask

With the cry of "she’ll be right" the people got down to the task.

Then, as the days went past, the number dead, the houses lost

Would rise and rise again till no-one really knew the cost.

Though non-one would forget, the scars remain for all to see

From the sixteenth day of February, Nineteen Eighty Three.

Retrieved from

Annotated Bibliography


Bean, C.E.W.’, 1948 (reprint 1991), Gallipoli Mission, ABC Enterprises, Sydney.

This is the story of Bean’s return to Gallipoli in 1919 after the War had finished. I did not use this for my essay but it was interesting because it was written by Australia’s official Great War historian who is accepted as creating the ANZAC legend.

Benson, Sir Irving, 1965, The Man with the Donkey: John Simpson Kirkpatrick, The Good Samaritan of Gallipoli, Hodder and Stoughton, London.

This is the story of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things in crisis. It tells the story of Simpson, the man who is one of the best known examples of the ANZAC Spirit. Simpson did not regard himself as a hero but did what needed to be done.

Carlyon, Les, 2001, Gallipoli, Macmillan, Sydney

This has been described as the definitive history of Gallipoli. Chapter 33, A Terrible Beauty, was particularly interesting as Carlyon discusses the ANZAC spirit. He states that the landing was seen as a piece of nation building (p532) and believes that there is an ANZAC Spirit but it is not easily defined (p534)

Denton, Kit, 1986, Gallipoli: One Long Grave, Time Life Australia.

This is an informative book with both photographs and detailed writing about Gallipoli. It includes the story of Simpson (p60) and gives examples by British journalist, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, describing the ANZACs as athletic and tall. Photographs in the book show many different types of men – short, old, young and not necessarily handsome. On page 159, Denton wrote that the ANZACs were like survivors of a shipwreck or an earthquake who bond together because they understand the experience. I found this statement very powerful.

Hill, Anthony, 2001, Soldier Boy; The True Story of Jim Martin, the Youngest ANZAC, Penguin Melbourne.

It was very interesting to read about the bravery and determination of Jim Martin who lied about his age (14) so that he could enlist. He died in a hospital boat after suffering from typhoid from the terrible conditions in Gallipoli.

Seymour, Alan & Nile, Richard (eds), 1991, ANZAC: Meaning, Memory and Myth, London, University of London Press.

This is a collection of essays written by academics about the ANZACs and gave different views about the ANZAC legend. The essay by Richard Nile Peace, Unreliable Memory and the Necessity of ANZAC mythologies, talks about the image of the ANZACs which is often remembered instead of the hardships. He believes that the ANZAC can be applied to many people and situations.


Ash Wednesday: Wednesday, February 16, 1983 .

This was produced by the Victorian and South Australian Country Fire Services to raise funds for the Bushfire appeals. It contains photographs, articles and personal stories of many people and volunteers affected by the fires. I found it useful as it gave first hand accounts of the tragedies. I could also look at some similarities between the Diggers and the CFS volunteers who were faced with terrible danger.


Crawford, Robert (2003) Propaganda Artist in Official Magazine of the Australian War Memorial – Wartime Issue 24.

This article provided a quote by Bean which gave a link between the ANZACs and the CFS volunteers. It was also useful because of the War posters.

Daenke, Sue, Arrival of Volunteers Surprised Letter to the Editor of the Courier, 23 March 1983, p7.

In this letter Ms Daenke thanks a group of volunteers from Flinders University who arrived to clean up their property after the Ash Wednesday Fires. She is grateful to those who helped in "our time of need". I thought this was relevant to the topic of my essay.

Horner, David, 1993, Fight that Changed Australia in Our Finest Hour, Australia on the Western Front 1916-1918; The Weekend Australian Magazine, August 7-8 1993

This contained information about the qualities of Australian servicemen which I used in my essay.

Nile, Richard Peace, Unreliable Memory and the Necessities of the Anzac Mythology in Seymour, Alan and Nile, Richard (eds) (1991), Anzac: Meaning, Memory and Myth, London, University of London

O’Chee, Bill, 1994, Chinese in the First World War in Agora, Volume 38 No1 2003

This speech was given in Parliament in 1994 and describes the Chinese contribution to World War 1. In particular it describes the brave acts of Caleb Shang and Billy Sing who were given DCMs for bravery. This shows that many ordinary people should be recognised as having qualities associated with the ANZAC spirit.

People Reluctant to Accept Help in the Courier, 8 March.

In this article, psychiatrist Professor Beverley Raphael says how Australians find it hard to accept help but many want to help. She said this was often because people did not regard themselves as "victims". I found this interesting because it gave a different point of view to people going through trauma.

In the Courier 23 February 1983 several letters of thanks were written by people who were helped by CFS units, but also friends and strangers. There is also an article Welfare Aid for Bushfire Victims which describes the assistance given in the way of clothing, accommodation and basic requirements.

In the same edition, there is an article Generosity Dedication Courage which tells of "amazing stories of human dedication and generosity [which] are emerging after the fire". The journalist talks about unemployed youth cooking meals, an Aldgate woman buying tress for her friend’s garden and others collecting money. It was important to read these articles as they gave me a small idea of what happened at the time.

Lindsay, Patrick, 2002, Mates for Life, The Weekend Australian, August 30-31, 2003 pp R4 – R5.

This was a very interesting article written after the Bali Bombings on 12 October 2002. In it Lindsay discusses the ANZAC spirit and claims that it stands up to "detailed scrutiny". He defines the spirit as "mateship, courage, compassion, endurance, selflessness, loyalty, resourcefulness, devotion, independence, ingenuity, audacity, coolness, larrikinism and humour" - very similar to the description created by CEW Bean – and claims that the spirit is evident in crises – from terrorism to bushfires. I found this article very relevant to my essay because of Lindsay’s ideas that the ANZAC spirit comes out in times of crisis. However, I believe that it is biased because he does not recognise the efforts of the Balinese and other nationalities but seems to imply that the reaction is only evident in Australians.

Moremon, John, 2003 Indigenous Australians at War in Agora, Volume 38 No1 2003

This article highlights the efforts of indigenous Australians in the wars that Australia has taken part in – not just World War 1.

Railly Victims in the Courier, 8 March 1983, p 6.

This article discusses the part played by services clubs such as Rotary, Lions and Apex who assisted in cleaning up properties after the fires.

Web Sites

The Anzac Spirit – the Endurance and Resourcefulness of the Anzacs from (no date or author stated). Retrieved 18/11/03.

The writer of this page supports the view that Gallipoli was more important than federation in bringing the nation together. The writer recognises that a Digger is "an Australian who never quits under hardship" and gives examples of the ANZAC spirit such as Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade.

Burke, Retired Lieutenant Colonel, Arthur, The Spirit of Anzac from Retrieved on 18/11/03.

The writer agrees that CEW Bean suggested that the Spirit of the ANZAC stood for "valour in a good cause" (p1) and mentions Simpson as epitomising "others before self". He also writes that the ANZAC spirit lives in other aspects of life and that it is "invincible" but he does not acknowledge minority groups in society and in the War.

Feiskhah, Elizabeth, The Myth Maker – CEW Bean (written 25 Oct 1999) at Retrieved on 18/11/03.

The writer states that CEW Bean did more to create the legend than anyone by publishing The Anzac Book in 1916. He was impressed by the courage of the Anzacs and spent 22 years writing the Official History of Australia in the War 1914-1918. This is not a particularly detailed article but does give useful information about Bean.

Irving, Helen, Tragic choice for a national myth published in the Weekend Australian, 27 April 2001 Retrieved on 18/11/03

Irving argues that Australia’s identity was not born at Gallipoli which was a tragic example of the horror of war. She believes that there is not a single Australian identity and if there is one, it should be related to "a commitment to democratic constitutional framework .. set down in 1901" (p2). Her opinion therefore is different from writers such as Peter Lindsay who clearly relates the ANZAC spirit to the reputation of the soldiers in the Great War.

Muhlebach, Alice, The Anzac Legend from Retrieved on 18/11/03

This is a brief account of some reasons why the ANZAC image may not be entirely factual. She gives credit to Ashmead-Bartlett rather than Bean for the ANZAC image and refers to the exclusiveness of the image which did not apply to women, indigenous people or migrants such as the Chinese who served in the Great War. I found this very relevant to my interpretation of the spirit of ANZAC.

Ruggenberg, Rob, The Aussie way of Discipline from Retrieved on 18/11/03

This is a worthwhile site as it contains excellent photos of "slovenly" ANZACs on the Western Front as well as discussing the reputation of the Australian soldiers in the Great War. Ruggenberg suggests that most of the British officers regarded the ANZACs as undisciplined and slovenly although Commander-in Chief Douglas Haig regarded them as "splendid and determined-looking" (p2). The soldiers were regarded as brave under fire but undisciplined. This site seemed to provide a balanced view of the ANZACs’ reputation.

Ruggenberg, Rob, Who really died at Gallipoli?


Here Ruggenberg quotes John Bailey (author of The Heritage of War) as saying that Gallipoli "was not a military victory but … it became an Australian statement of manhood … because Gallipoli was the first [open warfare], it stands out.

Woods, John, John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Retrieved on 18/11/03

This is a detailed account of Simpson’s life. It is based on the book by Sir Irving Benson. Simpson is described as "a typical digger" who risked his life to bring wounded soldiers out of the line of fire. Woods believes that because Simpson did not like authority and was a "larrikin" he was not liked by the British officers and was never decorated with the Victoria Cross. I found this article very useful to get more insight into the Simpson story and the fact that he was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.

Transcripts on the Web

Gallipoli correspondent recounts Anzac heroism. Retrieved on 18/11/03 from

7:30 Report on 25/04/2001

Transcript in which Kerry O’Brien and Arthur Easton of the NSW State Library discuss the importance of the diaries, writings and photographs of Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and his part in starting the image of the ANZACs.

Anzac Spirit from Retrieved on 18/11/03

Lateline, ABC 25/4/2001

Michelle Fonesca interviews Alexander Downer, Foreign Minister who says "Anzac isn’t the technical birth of our country but it is the birth of a great Australian tradition and the spirit of our country"

The making of the ANZAC myth.

Lateline 23/4/03 at Retrieved on 18/11/03.

In this segment Tony Jones discusses the making of the myth with Dr Jonathon King and Dr Dale Blair. Both these men are academics who write about World War 1. King and Blair agree that the ANZACs were "just ordinary blokes" (p2). Dale Blair also says that the image of the digger is "inherently masculine, it an aggressive figure and … it doesn’t hold much relevance to a lot of people in our current day society". (p5). King believes that they were outstanding soldiers while Blair’s opinion was that their image was "doctored". I thought this was a valuable interview because it tried to present two points of view.

Legend of Gallipoli

Lateline 23/4/2001 at Retrieved on 18/11/03

This segment was intended to test the legend of Gallipoli. The ANZACs became heroes in Australia. In this segment, reporter Margot O’Neill says that "out of defeat, a legend was born" . The poet John Mansfield was quoted

"The ANZACs were the finest body of young men every brought together in modern times

For physical beauty and ability of bearing, they surpassed any man I have ever seen"

Bean is also quoted – the men had a bush ethos "What motive sustained them … lay in the men themselves"

However, the program also mentions the stories of cowardice at Gallipoli, mutinies on the Western Front, desertion, murder without giving precise details. This is an interesting transcript and tries to show that the ANZACs were ordinary people not always heroes.

Ash Wednesday Fires broadcast on ABC 6.30 on 16/09/03. Transcript at Retrieved on 10/11/03

This is an interview between journalist Murray Nicoll and George Negus about the Ash Wednesday fires in the Adelaide Hills when he reported his own house burning. George Negus describes the firefighting as a time when volunteers and professionals work together. Nicoll talks about how thousands of people were affected while Negus talks about the "guts and dedication" required to deal with the disaster. The ANZAC spirit is not mentioned but it confirms that it was evident at the time.

The World Today – Ash Wednesday disaster remembered, twenty years on ABC Online Monday 17 February 2003. Retrieved on 10/11/03.

Reporter Nance Haxton looks back on the fires and interviews Marguerite Hann Syme who lost her house in the Adelaide Hills. Bravery and mateship are not discussed but Ron Telford of the CFS talks about coordination and preparation.

NSW: Bushfire effort proved ANZAC spirit lives on : Carr from Retrieved on 18/11/03.

This is an article for eLibrary and is very short. However, in the article, NSW Premier Bob Carr said that "the ANZAC spirit was alive and well in the state". I thought it was therefore relevant to my essay as the statement applies to the South Australian fires as well.


Dettmer, Bill: Ash Wednesday (no date)

I found this poem at (Retrieved on 14/11/03). I thought it was particularly relevant because of the lines quoted in my essay.

This seemed to be a very good example of how the ANZAC spirit could be found in the disaster of bushfires.


Davis, John Anzac Day World War 1, 1985. A video produced for primary school children but useful to give background to Gallipoli.

Couchman, Peter, 10 days of glory, 1990. This video traces the events leading to the visit by veterans to Gallipoli for the 75th anniversary. I found it useful and moving.

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