ANZAC DAY 1919

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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.

A century ago the first peacetime Anzac Day was observed.  With the pride of victory there was also the sadness of loss and a determination that the ANZAC dead who had fallen in the War would not be forgotten, and they have not been.  Gratitude is one of the noblest of human impulses, just as ingratitude is one of the most ignoble, and gratitude to war dead is a reminder of these facts.

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5 Comments

  1. To hear “Abide with Me” during the ANZAC ceremony today really felt like God was present with those brave men at Gallipoli and all wasn’t in vain. That these battles, win or loose, are not fought in vain. God sees. And It’s not often Gods name is uttered in the public sphere. Thank you you for sharing this.

  2. As I read the history, Gallipolli had some positive outcomes. The Turks were badly mauled, almost destroying their Central Command, and the losses pushed the Young Turks to eventually rebel against the Sultan. The Germans, fearing a victory, held up large numbers of troops in reserve against the need for a sudden march south, taking them out of combat for weeks. Like the poor Belgians cut down in the Kaiser’s nine-day march through their country, the ANZACs had a certain victory in delay.

  3. The Young Turks movement successfully revolted against the Sultan in 1908. I can think of no positive outcomes for the Allies from the Gallipoli campaign. Ultimately the Turks would lose their empire in Iraq, Palestine and Syria, by the Brits building up huge forces and grinding “Johnny Turk” to powder. Churchill was always looking for shortcuts to victory, and his critics were almost always right that such shortcuts were illusory blind alleys.

  4. Many Anzacs took part in the Palestinian Campaign. The Austarlian Cavalry chare at the Battle od Beersheba has gone down in history as one of the greatest.
    I remember my maternal grandfather, Don Piper who stormed ashore in the afternoon of 25th April 1915 at Gaba Tepe, along with his future brother-in-aw, Eustace Nicholson. They both survived Galipoli and were posted to the battlefields of France.
    I remember Nigel Piper – Don Piper’s younger brother who flew for the Royal Flying Corps in the antiquated bi-planes, fighting over France.
    I remember Uncle Ted Nicholson – Eustace’s younger brother, who joined him in the trenches in France.
    I Remember Uncle George Beckett – my dad’s oldest brother, who was gassed in France, and returned home to live the rest of his life with only one lung – he died aged 93. They all survived that terrible war – thanks be to God.
    Then, my father and many other relatives who fought in WW2
    A cousin who fought in Korea.
    Friends who fought in Vietnam.
    “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”.

  5. “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”.

    Indeed Don.

    They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
    Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
    They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
    They fell with their faces to the foe.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

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