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Today is Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand.   It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

We are the ANZAC Army

The A.N.Z.A.C.

We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

What bloody good are we ?

And when we get to Ber – Lin

The Kaiser, he will say

Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

What a bloody odd lot

to get six bob a day.

By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the war a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle.



In 1918 four Australian divisions and the New Zealand division were locked in battle on the Western Front, grinding down the initial German offensives and then helping to lead the way in the battles of the Hundred Days that resulted in Allied victory.  In the Middle East two Australian mounted divisions and a New Zealand mounted brigade performed prodigies in the battles that ended the Ottoman Empire.  In 1919 Field Marshal Allenby praised the New Zealand troops who fought under his command:


“Nothing daunted these intrepid fighters: to them nothing was impossible.”



Let that stand as a tribute to all the Citizen soldiers of the Anzacs who fought in the Great War.



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  1. Thank you Don. I remember my maternal Grandfather, and my uncle Eustace ‘Nick’ Nicholson today. They both stormed ashore at Gaba Tepe in the afternoon of April 25th. 1915 at the outset of the Galipoli Campaign. They both survived and were evacuated at the end of the disaster, and were sent back to England, then to France, where they were both wounded at Passchendele and returned home late in 1917. I also recall Uncle Nick’s two younger brothers Phil and Ted Nicholson who went to France in 1916 and who also returned home. And my father’s older brother, George Beckett who was gassed in 1918 and retuned to NZ, living a long life with only one operating lung – he died aged 93, and smoked all his life.

  2. “:Let that stand as a tribute to all the Citizen soldiers of the Anzacs who fought in the Great War.”
    AMZAC Day has been expanded as a day of rememberance for all who have died in ther service of our coutry to all the conflicts our troops have been involved in:
    229 New Zealanders who died in the Boer War (1899 – 1902)
    16,697 who died in WWI
    11,625 who died in WWII
    15 who died in Malaya (1949 – 1966)
    33 who died in the Korean War (1950 – 1953)
    37 who died in the Vietnam War (1964 – 1972)
    Ten who died in Afghanistan (2001 – 2013)
    Four who died in East Timor (1999 – 2006)
    We shall not forget them.

  3. Those numbers may not seem great, but it is a considerable sacrifice when one considers that the population of NZ at the time of WW I was less than 1 million people. Even today, we number only about 4.5 million.

  4. “Those numbers may not seem great”

    I recall Don that in the Civil War somebody described casualties in an engagement as light. President Lincoln responded that the casualties were infinitely heavy for those who had loved the men who had fallen. Your 11,625 death total in WW I would be equivalent to a US death tally in that war of over one million, four hundred thousand, more men than the US has lost in all of its wars. New Zealand and Australia were successfully punching way above their weight classes in both World Wars.

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