ANZAC Day – 25th April 2018

Posted on Wed 04/25/2018 by

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By Anton Lang ~

Why is ANZAC Day so important in Australia?

At 4.15AM on Sunday 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.

An original image of one of the landings at ANZAC Cove, this one at 8AM on April 25 1915. (Image Credit – Australian War Memorial Archives)

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

The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Forces from New Zealand were also part of this campaign, hence the acronym includes New Zealand, who, while part of this campaign, were under the command of their own fellow New Zealanders. This was a combined effort, and this day is also recognised just as reverently in New Zealand.

So, why is this one day so revered by Australians, when the 8 Month campaign that followed was considered in the main overall scheme of the War as a failure, considering that Australia has been part of so many famous victories on fields of battle in War since that time.

The original Badge of the Australian Army, worn on the hats of every Australian soldier. This is known as The Rising Sun Badge.

This was when Australian troops, commanded by Australians fought for the first time for each other as fellow Australians.

Those coming ashore who survived this original 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 in their own right, and one to be reckoned with.

During those 8 Months, nine Australians were awarded The Victoria Cross for valour, the highest award for bravery that there is. (This is the equivalent of the Medal of Honor in the U.S.) In fact, seven of those medals were awarded in just one  three day period. This was at Lone Pine, in August, where the Australians engaged in what was a diversionary feint to disguise the massed landing by the British further up the Coast at Suvla Bay. This Lone Pine engagement was some of the most savage hand to hand combat in close quarters of the whole 8 Month period at Gallipoli.

During that 8 Month period of this Gallipoli Campaign, 8,709 Australian soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

Each year from then forward, Australia has recognised that day of the first landing as the most solemn of days on our Calendar, when we, as a nation, pay reverent homage, not only to those brave men who fought and died at Gallipoli, but to all our Australian Military forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in times of all Wars, and for all our current serving men and women in Australia’s military forces.

Dawn Services are held across the Country timed for 4.15AM local time at memorials in the large Capital cities, and across cities and towns all over Australia, literally at thousands of such places. While still early morning at that time, these services are always attended by masses of people all across Australia.

Later that same morning, marches are held in many of these places as well. Those marches in the Capital cities have literally thousands of men and women marching, with only veterans and current serving members from the three armed forces, and some marches may only have a handful of men marching, as numbers now thin out with the passing of years.

While those people march, many thousands line the length of the march and pay solemn tribute to those old men who fought so that we actually could line those streets to salute them, and to also pay silent tribute to those who did not come home.

ANZAC Day April 25th 2018

In 1916, only one year after that landing at Gallipoli, a decision was made to recognise that one day, April 25th, as a day to remember what happened at Gallipoli, with special services timed at 4.15AM, the time of that original landing, and later in the day to have marches where people could honour those men who paid the ultimate price during that landing and the following campaign. In 1916, there were only a small number of places where this happened. This form of Commemoration gained strength even in those early years, and quite soon, the Dawn Service and then the March later in the morning became an established tradition. It was thought that it might fade away, but it has come back strongly, and now those services timed at 4.15AM are attended by crowds larger than ever before, and increasing in attendance with each passing year. One of the best attended of all the Dawn Services in Australia is the one held at the War Memorial in our National Capital, Canberra. Across recent years, perhaps one of the best attended Services at 4.15AM local time is the one held at ANZAC Cove on that Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, where many thousands travel from Australia to gather for the Service at 4.15AM on the same soil where those brave men came ashore in 1915. It has almost become one of the things to do in life, as young people flock to this one place to be part of this tradition. The Service at Gallipoli this year has fewer numbers, mainly due to the political unrest in Turkey, but the local security is higher this year than in earlier years, as this is an important thing for the Turkish people themselves, so they go out of their way to keep that Service free of any incidents, and none has ever happened there, or the Service later in the day at the Lone Pine Memorial. There are also a large number of Services held in France as the Australian Force was instrumental in the War in that area. In fact, quite a large number of schools in that area have an image of that Australian Rising Sun Badge in a highly visible place and under each Badge are the words ‘Never Forget Australia’. One of the best attended Services in France is at a small village called Villers-Bretonneux. The link below to my own Post from 2009 about General Sir John Monash explains why this area is also so important to Australia. Only yesterday, on the 24th April 2018, the new Sir John Monash Centre was opened at Villers-Bretonneux, and that is detailed at the article at this link, also showing some images from this wonderful new Centre. While the Monash Centre was officially opened by the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, perhaps the best words came from the Prime Minister of France, Edouard Philippe, who spoke so powerfully at the opening ceremony, detailed in the article at this link.

The numbers of veterans actually marching diminish each year as those ranks of veterans thin out, but the numbers of those lining the streets to watch increases with each passing year. For a long time now, there has been no First Great War Veterans left to march, and even those veterans from the Second World War are now thinning dramatically. Australia still has many veterans from other fields of conflict, most recent among them, young men who served Australia with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the marches are well attended by current serving members from every branch of the Australian Military. This year, serving Women Veterans have been honoured, and they will lead most of the Marches in the major cities, and in towns all across Australia.

A Personal Observation

I served as a member of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) for 25 years, and during that time, I attended a number of Dawn Services and also marched during the Marches that followed later that morning. It always was a source of immense pride, especially during the march as we all were in our uniforms marching as a large group, to hear and feel the appreciation of the crowds lining the streets of Newcastle.

Years after my discharge, in 2007, I actually had the chance to march in a small local March for the first and only time with my brother Bruce who served in the Royal Australian Navy as a Clearance Diver, (the same as U.S. Navy Seals) and that was at Runaway Bay, also on The Gold Coast. The image below shows me at left with my brother and our Mother standing between us, and this was taken at the newly erected ANZAC Memorial at Runaway Bay, just seen at the far right.

However, my earliest impression of ANZAC Day was before I joined the RAAF, and that was in 1964, at the age of only 13 years old. I was in the Scouts, and we also attended the Dawn Service, and later marched in the small march they held at Southport, my home town, a small town on The Gold Coast in Queensland. Our group of Scouts was a small one from Labrador, and while Southport had the largest group of Scouts, our Labrador group only had around eight or so Scouts who attended on this ANZAC Day in 1964. We were each allocated one veteran, either from the First or Second World Wars, and we stood with him during the 4.15AM Dawn Service and then, later that morning, we marched alongside that same veteran during the March. We had also done the same thing the year prior to that, but as a 12 year old, there’s not much I remember from that earlier day the year before. What stood out on this day was that the veteran I was allocated was actually one of those who landed at Gallipoli, as he told me later, and from Southport and the surrounding area, there were less than a handful of them, five at most, actual Gallipoli veterans, attending that day. This man I stood with during the Service at the Memorial at the end of Nerang Street on the small rise in ANZAC Park, and then marched with later for the mile and a half of that March, was the oldest man I had ever been with in my life. He originally landed with the second wave at Gallipoli at 8AM on that morning back in 1915, and he was around 19 at the time, so on the day of this ANZAC Day in 1964, he was 68 years old. He walked with the aid of a cane, and didn’t say too much, but what he did say after that morning Service gave me my first real appreciation of what that day meant. He told me that War was not something to go to, and if I ever got the chance, to not even go at all. He told me that he served on that fated Peninsula for the whole of that 8 Month Campaign, and then went on to serve in France on The Western Front, serving out the entire War. Later that morning, before the March started, he was the one who sought me out to accompany him. I marched alongside him for the duration, and then stood with him during the commemoration and speeches that followed. He told me a little about what he did, just some general things, but that he didn’t really like to talk too much about it he said. What strikes me now is that this year, I am almost the same age as that gentle old man was back when I was only 13, in 1964.

The following two years, I marched with our High School’s group of Army Cadets. I looked for him before the March the following year, but he didn’t seem to be there that year. I didn’t even remember his name, but that day the year before with that fine old gentleman was the Day when the significance of what ANZAC Day really meant began to mean something to me. He was the only veteran from Gallipoli I ever met in my life.

News articles from around Australia, and also from Gallipoli and France for ANZAC Day 2018

This link details events from The War Memorial in Canberra, where around 38,000 people braved a chilly morning to attend what is probably the best attended Dawn Service in Australia.

This link has articles and images of the Services from all around Australia.

The Services at both ANZAC Cove on Gallipoli, and also at Villers-Bretonneux, are still being held, and later on in the day local time, there will be the large ceremony at Lone Pine on Gallipoli, and 8000 people are expected to attend that special occasion.

Related Posts

General Sir John Monash reviewing his last ANZAC Day Parade, 25th April 1931. Image From Australian Government National Archives.

Over the ten years I have been contributing at this site, I have detailed all those previous ANZAC Days, and I have also detailed the landing, and the withdrawal, and for further information, I will include those links here. Each of those Posts includes some of the other aspects about the original landing and subsequent action during the eight and a half Month Campaign.

Permanent link to the Index for the earlier ANZAC Day Posts.

The Birth Of A Nation. My first ANZAC Day Post from 2008. This details the original landing at Ari Burnu, which is now known as ANZAC Cove, in the early morning of 25th April 1915.

Troop Drawdown. This Post of mine, also from 2008 details the withdrawal of troops from the Gallipoli Peninsula at the end of the Campaign in January 1916.

General Sir John Monash.  This is the Post of my own I made in 2009, and it is about a Brigade Commander from Gallipoli, Colonel John Monash, who went on to become a General and who was instrumental in the conclusion of the First World War.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.

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