Australia has always been a country founded on courage, determination, selflessness, heroism and world-renowned Aussie ‘mateship’. War has a way of showing a persons true colours, and in the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli in 1915, more than one ANZAC soldier was proven to be a hero. Admired and respected by allies and enemies alike, the ANZACS fought valiantly to protect their country, even when defeat was certain. The spirit of the ANZACS manifests itself in ordinary Australians, allowing them to defy the odds and go that extra mile in situations in which others would crumble under the pressure. Our brave troops are remembered so that their legacy will live on and give inspiration, to lend hope to those who need it, and to help ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Today immortalized as a bronze statue at the National War memorial in Canberra, English born John Simpson Kirkpatric and his noble donkey stepped far beyond the call of duty to become on of the most famous and heroic ANZACs.
Frustrated by the disorganized and ineffective stretcher bearing teams, Simpson saw promise in a group of military donkeys that had strayed from the battles. Selecting one, Simpson and his companion collected the wounded from the battlefield, somehow avoiding the fatal barrage of enemy gunfire. Risking life and limb, Simpson managed to save the lives of about three hundred men over the twenty-four days that he served at Gallipoli. On the 19th of May 1915, Simpson was shot through the back by machine gun fire. While technically a deserter, as he would frequently skip reporting back to his station in order to spend more time on the field, Simpson was encouraged by most of his superiors and the diggers, and has become the epitome of the ANZAC spirit.
Although Simpson and so many of his fellow soldiers have been honoured greatly, there are still many unsung heroes of Gallipoli, the anonymous men who risked their lives for what they believed in. On the 11th of November 1993, Paul. J. Keating, the then Prime Minister of Australia gave a speech dedicated to "The Unknown Australian Soldier". In this speech, Mr. Keating put the ANZAC spirit into words when he said: "…out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together."*1
On October 12, 2002, Australia was shocked when it was made a direct target of terrorist bomb attacks. The busy Sari Club on the popular tourist island of Bali was destroyed, leaving hundreds of people dead, and even more wounded. On that night, many Australians and Indonesians forgot about their own injuries, and about their own safety, and did their best to drag survivors away from the chaos. Most of these extraordinary people, when asked how they could have summoned enough courage to put themselves at risk to aid others, say that they did not think about the risk to themselves, that it just seemed like it was what they had to do. Daniel ‘Bones’ Smith, Damien Sheridan, an anonymous man and Michael Kennedy, all nineteen years old, of High Wycombe, a suburb in the Perth Hills, were just some of the unlikely heroes that emerged that night. Smith, who escaped the blast, doubled back and rescued his friend Luke Smoker, and two other girls. If not for Smith, all three of them would have died. Sheridan, Kennedy and the anonymous man also doubled back to find their mates Aaron Lindsey and Chad Wood, both of whom were badly wounded. Said Smith to ABC reporter Mick O’Donnell when asked how they rescued their friends: "How can you call anyone a hero, when you just- I don’t know. Just any of these boys would have done the same for anybody."*2 Surely, it must have been the ANZAC spirit that helped these friends to do such extraordinary things.
Louise Sauvage was born a paraplegic in Perth on the 18th September, 1973. Ever since the age of three she was making the most of her situation. She was sporty, and showed promise in becoming a professional swimmer. However, the dream was taken away when she was fourteen years old and a curvature in her spine required major surgery. The surgery made her unable to participate in sport for two years. When she could finally return to her active lifestyle, she was devastated to discover that, because of two steel rods that were now part of her spine, she could never swim as she could
1. Speech by Prime Minister Paul. J. Keating on 11th November 1993. Speechwriter: Don Watson. Australia
2. "Perth Mates Celebrate Lucky Escape" Interview by Mick O’Donnel, Wed 16th October 2002. Australia. http://www.abc.net.au/news/indepth/featureitems/s702759.htm
After talking with the last ANZAC diggers, Dr Jonathan King said "The last ten surviving ANZACs I interviewed were among the greatest heroes I have ever met – each with a real story to tell and real national treasures every one of them."*3 Although the diggers that Dr King interviewed have since passed away, their legend will live forever. They were a link to the past, and a link to the spirit that kept them alive to share their knowledge with the younger generations, the future leaders of Australia. But all is not lost. The spirit of the ANZACs is not a physical object or presence or person, but it can still be felt and owned and treasured by all those who wish to possess it. It helps us through the hard times, the terrible times, and the times that we want to forget, as those were the times in which it was born. It helps ordinary Australians to do extraordinary things, and it has given our country a unique identity that we can all be proud of.
"Anzac Diggers" Rebecca Hall, 26th March 1998. Australia
"Anzac Day" Rebecca Hall, 1995. Australiahttp://www.ozbird.com/oz/anzac.htm
"Anzac Diggers" Rebecca Hall, 26th March, 1998. Australiahttp://www.ozbird.com/anzacpilgrimage.htm
"Australians: Making a Great Nation" by Tim Dare :pgs 103, 128.
Published 1985 by Child and Henry Publishing Pty Ltd, NSW, Australia
"Louise Sauvage" No Author, No Date. Australia
"Louise Sauvage: History" No Author, Wed 26th January 2003. Australiahttp://accessibility.com.au/sports/fanclub/louise_sauvage/history.htm
"Perth Mates Celebrate Lucky Escape" Interview by Mick O’Donnel, Wed 16th October 2002. Australia.http://www.abc.net.au/news/indepth/featureitems/s702759.htm
"Philips Concise Encyclopedia". No Author, edited by Steve Luck :pgs 32,
Published 1997 by George Phillip Limited, London, Great Britain
Speech by Prime Minister Paul. J. Keating on 11th November 1993. Speechwriter: Don Watson. Australia
"Simpson and his Donkey" No Author, No Date. Australiahttp://www.anzacs.net/Simpson.htm
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