ANZAC Day – 25th April 2010

Posted on Sun 04/25/2010 by

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ANZAC is capitalised because it is an acronym, and stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

The image at left shows the Gallipoli Peninsula. The map is from the Australian War Memorial. Click on the image and it will open in a new and larger window.

At 4.15Am on the 25th April 1915 an untried Corps of Australian soldiers waded ashore from the longboats that had brought them there from the large troopships further out to sea. As they came ashore in the Dawn’s half light they were mowed down in droves by the Turkish soldiers who had the high ground.

The Place – an insignificant little Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, part of Turkey, near a small place known as Ari Burnu, now forever burned into every Australian and known forever as ANZAC Cove, a small piece of Australian Sacred Ground on a foreign shore.

Those coming ashore who survived this murderous onslaught regrouped and started to fight back. This campaign lasted for eight and a half months. In that time, Australian soldiers announced to the World that they were now no longer an untried group of colonials, but a magnificent fighting force, and one to be reckoned with.

Each year from then forward, Australia has recognised that day as the most solemn of days on our Calendar.

For many years after that first landing, we honoured those who fought so valiantly, and returned to Australia, and especially those who did not come home. Each year, more and more of those original ANZACs passed away, and for some years now, there have been none of those originals alive to participate. That does not mean the day has passed with their passing. It eased off a little, and has now returned, stronger than ever. We commemorate this special day to recognise all those military persons, male and female, who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom, and we remember those still with us who served in all the conflicts Australia has been part of. We also recognise all current serving members of the Military, and all those who have served in the Military over the years.

Across the length and breadth of this vast Australia, the day is remembered, in all of the Capital cities, and all the way down to the smallest of townships. There are services at Dawn, ranging from that original landing time of 4.15, to the actual Dawn for the area where the service is being held. Those Dawn Services are solemn events, and being so early, not many people take the time to attend them. They are mostly short by nature, and one of the most haunting sounds that stays with all who attend is when the Bugler plays ‘The Last Post’. In the U.S. the same tune is ‘Taps’, and that tune coming through the silence in the Dawn’s half light is something that stays with you long after the Service is over. As an ex serving member myself. I have attended many of these Dawn Services over the years, and the meaning of this occasion is something that you just never forget.

Later in the morning, all the remaining veterans along with ex service men and women and current serving members gather for a march. That march may be a couple of miles long, or in some of the smaller towns, only a few hundred yards. The number of people marching may be in the thousands in the Capital cities, or even less than a hundred in some of the small towns. Another short service follows each march. Then, those veterans, those who are still with us, gather privately as small groups, and remember those times when they were alongside each other in that time of strife, those ‘Brothers In Arms’.

The article at this link details the vast number of special memorials across the Country, numbering more than 1500. These are the only places where Australians can remember their fallen soldiers, because none of them were returned to Australia for burial. Usually, each local memorial has a plaque attached to it, and on that plaque is a list of names of all those soldiers from that area who served, along with those who did not return, so the memorial is a solid and constant reminder always of those local people who went off to defend their Country.

THE ANZAC CAMPAIGN

On the map above you can see the Dardanelles, that narrow passage of water. The idea was for this sea passage to be taken by Allied Forces, and in this manner, a route could be opened up to try and open a new front to the rear of occupying German Forces. This body of water was well protected by the Turks, who had sided with the Germans in The Great War, those Turks under the control of a few high ranking German officers. This highly strategic body of water was vital if that second front could be opened. The British tried to take it with a sea Battle, but lost that battle most ignominiously along with numerous Capital ships, virtual sitting targets from the big guns mounted on the high ground on either side of that body of water.

The next plan was to land ashore on the Peninsula with a huge force to take those gun emplacements and secure a safe passage for the ships in future.

The main landing was to be at Cape Helles at the point of the Peninsula there. The untried Australian and New Zealand force was to land further up the Peninsula, work their way inland, hook up with the vastly numerically superior British Force, and then take the emplacements.

The whole campaign was what might be now referred to as a complete disaster, not through lack of trying, but mainly through lack of more thorough planning.

A young Turk officer was also instrumental in this. He defied the German High Command, quite regularly, and molded his fellow Turks into a superb Force, because after all, this was Turkey, and their home land. That Turk Officer was Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later immortalised as the Father Of Modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk.

The landing at Cape Helles was an unmitigated disaster and tens of thousands of good men were killed there, and the British moved barely 2 miles in the whole campaign, soon hopelessly bogged down.

At ANZAC Cove those regrouped Australians dug in, in the most inhospitable of areas to fight battles, in gorges, on mountains and deep ravines, with lines of communication that could not be maintained. In fact, Australians advanced further on that first day than they did for the whole campaign. There were signal acts of inordinate bravery, and in some cases, men from both sides were barely yards from each other in the myriad of trenches covering the area.

Bogged down as everyone was, and on both sides, a plan was made to inject more troops, lead a huge push and try to achieve the objective.

There was another huge force landed further to the North at Suvla Bay. Again, poorly led, they were cut down in droves and barely advanced one mile from where they landed. A couple of New Zealand soldiers actually achieved one objective, and took a hill actually overlooking some of those Gun emplacements, but they had to fall back, being such a small number and with no one to reinforce them.

At around the same time as the landing at Suvla Bay, the Australians were asked to lead a big push in the hope they could break through. This was at Lone Pine. In four days of the fiercest combat of the campaign, more than 2000 Australians lost their lives. 7 Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross over those 4 days, the highest award for Valor, and the same as your Medal Of Honor in the U.S. This added to the one awarded prior to Lone Pine, and the one awarded after Lone Pine.

Again the battle bogged down, and with a plan of absolute genius from an Australian, that whole force of 80,000 Australians, 200 Artillery Pieces, 2000 vehicles, 5000 horses and mules and all the associated equipment was withdrawn from an active battlefield over three successive nights without the loss of a single life and totally undetected. I detail that withdrawal in the post at this link.

The Australian ABC media has a wonderful interactive website of this campaign, and it can be accessed by taking this link.

This failed campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula was in fact a fairly comprehensive loss.

What it achieved however was measured not by the men who lost their lives, the awards for bravery, the lack of military planning from the top, or even that the enemy was stronger.

What it did most effectively accomplish was to announce to the World that Australia, that vast and sparsely populated land on the other side of the World, had a force of men who could stand tall in any company, and would acquit themselves most capably on any field of conflict.

This was borne out later on the fields along the Somme River in France where fighting had bogged down. This is where the Australians were sent next after Gallipoli. A Colonel at Gallipoli, respected by his men, his senior officers and others then devised battle plans that were instrumental in ending that conflict. That Colonel at Gallipoli was John Monash, and I have a separate post on him at this link.

Gallipoli may be written in the history books as pretty much of a failure, but it galvanised Australia as a whole. That man John Monash, now a retired Lieutenant General, was instrumental in seeing that this one special day was remembered each year, and on the same day as that original landing.

ANZAC Day here in Australia is similar in nature somewhat to your Veterans Day in the U.S. and in fact is the single most solemn day on the Australian calendar, a day when all Australians stop to remember those who gave us the freedom we have today.

As I said above, there are none of those originals remaining any more, and in fact the numbers of those veterans from the Second World War are now thinning dramatically. Even with all of them gone, ANZAC Day will never die.

We owe every one of them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. That is why we have to remember them.

Lest We Forget.

anzacoz