Most Aussies and Kiwis will wake up today in a warm bed, surrounded by loved ones. Most will enjoy a holiday where they can kick back and take it easy.
However, 101 years ago a group of citizen soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (as well as other nationalities) conducted an amphibious invasion of Turkish soil on the Gallipoli peninsula in an ultimately futile attempt to break the stalemate of defensive warfare on the Western Front during the First World War.
It was the first appearance of these ANZAC troops on the world stage and they took it to with the enthusiasm of a new comer. Unfortunately, their greatest advance was on that first day against surprised Turkish troop who quickly rallied, thanks to inspired leadership, and contained the invasion to isolated areas along the coast.
Over the next nine months, each side made little headway and the engagement descended into stalemate that only ended with the withdrawal of Allied troops in December 1915. After 4.10am on December 20th 1915 no ANZAC troops remained on Gallipoli, they had however lost over 10,000 killed and 20,000 wounded. Their dogged determination had won the Australian 9 Victoria Crosses, the highest order of valour the military had to offer.
But the fighting for the ANZACs wasn’t over. Far from it, they were transferred to meat grinder that was the Western Front were they once again distinguished themselves in engagement after engagement. This gallantry came at significant cost with over 200,000 being causalities by the end of the war. In the 4 years of War approximately 416,809 had joined up and of these 313,814 had embarked for duty overseas. 65% of these were killed or wounded compared to 51% for Britain, 50% for Canada and 59% for New Zealand. Nearly 40% of all Australian males 18 – 44 voluntarily enlisted. One in five or 63,163 died on active service during the war.
The remembrance we have for the anniversary of Gallipoli needs to be seen for what it is, a beginning, not an end. Gallipoli was not the only the sacrifice made by these men (and some women). We need to remember the terrible battles of Fromelles were casualties amounted to over 5,500 in one night!
We need to remember the hell of Pozières where the inscription today reads:
THE RUIN OF POZIERES WINDMILL
WHICH LIES HERE WAS THE CENTRE
OF THE STRUGGLE IN THIS PART OF
THE SOMME BATTLEFIELD IN JULY
AND AUGUST 1916. IT WAS CAPTURED ON AUGUST 4TH BY AUSTRALIAN
TROOPS WHO FELL MORE THICKLY ON
THIS RIDGE THAN ON ANY OTHER
BATTLEFIELD OF THE WAR
The last Australian attack on Pozières was on 3 September, 1916. The Australian 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions had been used by their commanders as a battering ram and lost nearly 23,000 officers and men in a mere 6 weeks on a front that extended little more than a mile. This casualty figure represented 50% of the total of all 3 divisions strength.
It is hard for us today to fathom such loss, let alone the courage and sacrifice it took to fight for what you believed in and what you were ordered to do.
It all took place in a different time and in a world that is very different from what we live in today. However, those incidents, those sacrifices, leave with us a legacy of country men and women who laid down their lives for their belief in our country. What they did, they did so others could have a better tomorrow.
Thus, in our enjoyment of a better tomorrow, let us pause and remember them. Let us also remember all those who have served and continue to serve our country. They are volunteers. They elect to do this largely by choice and that’s what makes it so special.
Lest we forget.
For more information about the battles of ANZAC troops n the western front of World War One visit my web site: