Courtney Jones
Ogilvie High School
Winner – Tasmania

Our Bravest and Our Best

Most of them were ordinary people. People like the man at the corner store, a teacher or athlete. The most unlikely people that you would expect to be soldiers. They went to places that they knew nothing of, places they never imagined they might be. They left families and friends, jobs and businesses, and went to war. Some did not return. Untrained, untested these ordinary people fought at Gallipoli for our nation. The ANZAC spirit encompasses the epitomes of endurance, courage, good humor and Mateship. The ANZACs; ordinary people, extraordinary things.

"The image of a stretcher bearer, leading his donkey laden with a wounded digger connects with the experiences and responses of ordinary people caught up in great historical events not of their own making. We in turn respond to the heroism and the sacrifices because they are ordinary people like us"

John Simpson Kirkpatrick has become famous for his work as a stretcher-bearer, "the man with the donkey" or Bahadur – bravest of the brave. Using ‘Duffy’ the donkey for water carrying and, later, transporting wounded men day and night from the front line, Simpson fought through deadly sniping down the valley and the most furious shrapnel fire before he was shot on May 19, 1915. Simpson has become a legend – the symbol of all that was pure, selfless and heroic at Gallipoli, witty and warm-hearted Simpson never received a bravery award for his actions despite recommendation.

Although Simpson had undergone some training, he was still an ordinary person. The "bloke with the donk" saved countless lives without fear of his own and paid the ultimate price while serving his country. Simpson is but one of over 60,000 ordinary men that were killed doing extraordinary things.

Jim Martin is the youngest known ANZAC. Enlisting at fourteen years two months and killed in action seven months later, Jim’s courage and determination in the face of death is astounding for such a young age. Jim’s father tried to enlist with the Australian Imperial Force, only to be turned down as medically unfit. Not willing to remove the family from the representation of Australia, Jim enlisted. Jim was an ordinary teenager whose life emulates principles that even today Australians strive for; love of family, pride of family and nation and understanding of responsibilities to family, school and nation.

Simpson and Martin are two examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, but they are two in the 300,000 men that enlisted.

"And each with his secret story,

And all with a common aim:

To sail to a foreign country,

And fight for England’s Name."

These 300,000 men do not include female nurses or drivers, or support crews located in Australia. Each person that contributed to the war was not a superperson, but they did achieve tremendous things.

The ANZACs are the first recorded Australians to be renowned for their spirit. War is never thought of or conceived as a pretty scene. Soldiers and family alike suffered the loss of close friends and family members as well as the added stress of the war itself. ANZACs, however, did not loose hope, endured through hard times, contributed courage and ingenuity to the war effort, were good humored and possessed one other characteristic that made them individuals on the field: Mateship. Through the spirit and comradeship of ANZAC, soldiers could cry for help and find someone looking out for them.

"By Dawn on December 20th ANZAC had faded into a dim blue line lost amid other hills of the horizon as the ships took their human freight to Imbros, Lemnos and Egypt. But ANZAC stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat."

To understand this spirit one must understand the history of Australia. Before Federation, settlements were scarce and far apart yet pioneers built our foundations in these tiny communities. The independence, hardship and freedom of these conditions ignited the blood of our earliest settlers. This same spirit helped ordinary men, teenagers and boys to survive the war. The spirit of ANZAC swept up from the beaches of Gallipoli Peninsula as the ANZACs pushed forward into chaos.

"For the honour of Australia, our mother,

Side by side with our kin from over sea,

We have fought and we have tested one another,

And enrolled among the brotherhood are we."

This fraternity was one of the many extraordinary things that our men achieved on the field. The ANZACs took the Australian freedom, humor and diligence and transported it to the horror of war a truly remarkable feat.

Throughout World War One it was not just the traditional ANZACs that achieved extraordinary things. Women left their homes and housekeeping to join organisations that knitted, cooked, darned and wrote to the soldiers on the battlefield. Socks were urgently needed, as the soldiers could not wash or dry their socks in the mud and cold of the trenches. Women knitted tens of thousands of socks. In the winter of 1916 alone, the Australian Comforts Fund provided 80 000 hand-knitted pairs of socks in response to an urgent appeal. The Soldiers' Sock Fund in Sydney sent away almost 21 000 pairs of socks per year.

This was the first time in Australian history that women of all classes and backgrounds came together for one cause. The Adelaide cheer-up society planned dances, parties and memorials for returned soldiers and similar organisations were set up around the country.

Women started taking lessons in agriculture, a never before possible field of work for a female.

"With our brave men fighting for God and country, it remains ...to women to fill the gap and shoulder the responsibilities left. The Government spent in 1914 13,861 pounds on agricultural high schools in Victoria. This has been greatly increased since. In a few instances there are more girls than boys taking the agricultural instruction provided, and this is encouraging. Women may in the future find it imperative to direct and control operations on many of the farms in our fair land of Australia."

The ordinary women of the First World War did extraordinary things. These were the first Australian women to leave their homes in search of jobs in core industries. These were the first Australian women to become nurses on the front line, and survive. These women established a path for future females to follow and initiated the path to equality. For a group of ordinary ‘housewives’ this is an extraordinary task.

The ANZACs were everyday people from Australia and New Zealand, yet they managed to become heroes, victors and legends. The ANZACs had an inextinguishable spirit that was free-willed and lively and back in Australia, the ‘female ANZACs’ broke social barriers to help their husbands and brothers at war.

They were ordinary people. People like the postman, a schoolboy or loving father. The most unlikely people that you would expect to be soldiers. They established the ANZAC spirit and legend. They left mates and careers, family and lives, and went to war. Some did not return.

The ANZACs; ordinary people, extraordinary things.

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