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2CH HISTORY REVISITED - APRIL

For this month of April I thought it important to revisit Gallipoli

ANZAC DAY 2012 - GALLIPOLI 97 YEARS ON

 

 

THE JESTER IN THE TRENCH

 

“That just reminds me of a yarn”, he said.
And everybody turned to hear his tale.
He had a thousand yarns inside his head.

They waited for him, ready with their mirth
And creeping smiles – then suddenly turned pale,
Grew still, and gazed upon the earth.

They heard no tale. No further word was said.
And with his untold fun,
Half leaning on his gun,
They left him
Dead!
Leon Gellert

The plan was to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula, to enable the British and French navies to go through the narrows of the Dardanelles into the Black Sea, to reach Constantinople, threatening the Turkish Capital in order to knock them out of the war.

From there they could open up an Eastern front in Europe and also supply their allies in Russia. At the time everyone failed to appreciate the vigour of Turkish resistance, underestimated the strength of the Turkish defences and the difficulty of supplying an invasion force in that part of the world. No one appreciated how difficult the terrain was. So it looked easier than it was.

The Turks were much more tenacious and skilful than the Entente Powers (Allies) expected. There was also a lot of Turks who could easily be thrown into battle thanks to things such as a railway network built for them by the Germans.

They were also very good diggers; their trench networks were a maze with tunnels and twists and turn very difficult for trench war novices to negotiate.

On 4 August 1914, Australia, as part of what was then the British Empire, went to war. With members of the British Empire (Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India) Australia joined with Great Britain to fight Germany and her allies.  At that time Australia was a new nation, less than 14 years old and for the first time Australians from all over the country came together to form an Australian army. This force, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), initially 30,000 strong, left for overseas in November 1914.

At about 3.30 a.m. on April 25 1915, Queenslanders from the 9th Battalion of 3rd Brigade finished transferring from ship to small boats which were first towed and then finally rowed towards the beach at what was to become ANZAC Cove.

Due to tidal currents and navigational error, the landing was further north than planned, not onto an open plain as was intended but across a narrow strip of beach at the foot of scrub covered hills, hills where movement was difficult, where targets were very hard to spot, and where co-ordination and control of assaulting troops was almost impossible.

At 4.29 a.m. the first Anzacs went ashore. Initially, only two or three hundred Turks opposed them with small arms and machine gun fire, but by 4.45 a.m. Turkish shrapnel was exploding over ANZAC Cove and Turkish reinforcements were being rallied.

The remaining battalions of 3rd Brigade were landed into a constricted area of confusion but the men had been told that they were the covering force for their division so they dropped their packs and commenced to force their way upwards and inland searching for Turks.

Between 5.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. the 2nd and 1st Brigades began to move ashore however by 7.00 a.m. 3rd Brigade could be seen from the ships at sea to be digging in on the first and second ridges beyond the beach. As the day progressed the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and the 4th Australian Brigade were landed but by as early as 9.00 a.m. the first of the Turkish reinforcements had begun to press onto the Australians furthermost advanced.

At ANZAC Cove, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps initially comprised: 1st Australian Division consisting of: 1st Brigade (NSW);  2nd Brigade (Victoria); 3rd Brigade (Composite Queensland, SA, WA, Tasmania) and New Zealand & Australian Division consisting of: New Zealand Infantry Brigade and 4th Australian Infantry Brigade (Composite all states).

8,907 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left a powerful legacy.

The creation of what became known as the "ANZAC Legend" became an important part of the national identity of both nations. This shaped the ways they viewed both their past and future

As repeated dispatches recounting the heroic deeds of Australian soldiers reached home, Australians began to feel, as they still do, that there was something special about being Australian and that the digger personified a unique national type, born of the Australian bush and confirmed for the rest of the British world at Gallipoli. This was the bronzed Anzac, the idealised image of the Australian at war and of the Australian spirit.

Only 14 years earlier, the Australian colonies had federated as a nation. Gallipoli came to be seen as an affirmation of that nationhood. Both the legend and the Anzac image were quickly established and transcended the bitter divisions of the conscription debate faced by Australians later in the war.

Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean was one of the great war correspondents and he had a rare sensitivity for the soldiers and what they had endured, noting of the evacuation from Gallipoli for example, that the hardest thing for the men, was leaving their dead mates. He wrote in his official dispatch:

“But the uppermost thought in the mind of every man I have spoken to was regret at leaving the little mountain cemeteries which every valley and hillside contains. For weeks past, at any time of the day, you saw small parties of men carefully lettering in the half-obliterated name of some comrade on a rough wooden cross, or carefully raking a mound, and bordering it neatly with fuse caps from fallen shells ... I notice some chaplains sowing wattle and manuka on graves”.

Banjo Paterson wrote to the troops in 1915 We're All Australians Now

Australia takes her pen in hand,
to write a line to you,
to let you fellows understand,
how proud we are of you.

From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobsons Bay,
Each native-born Australian son,
stands straighter up today.

The man who used to "hump his drum",
On far-out Queensland runs,
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer's sons.

The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.
The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh's sow,
We're not State children any more
We're all Australians now!

Our six-starred flag that used to fly,
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,

Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict'ry at the prow;
For that's the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!
The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill,
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.

With all our petty quarrels done,
Dissensions overthrown,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.

Our old world diff'rences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They're all Australians now!


So now we'll toast the Third Brigade,
That led Australia's van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.

Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.

And with Australia's flag shall fly
A spray of wattle bough,
To symbolise our unity,
We're all Australians now.


Anzac Day is arguably Australia's most significant anniversary. Celebrated on 25 April, the day dates from the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 to fight the Turks during the First World War.

There is a formality about the day's early proceedings. At dawn, there is a service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and at cenotaphs in each state and territory. Wreaths are laid and a lone bugler plays 'The Last Post' at each venue. The service is followed by a march of returned servicemen and women from the two world wars and the Vietnam War, with transport provided for the disabled. Veterans, and sometimes their relatives, then devote the remainder of the day to reminiscence and a celebration of the fallen.

Although there are now almost none of the original 'Anzacs' alive, the day has lost none of its significance and, increasingly, Australians are visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula to commemorate the landing and the subsequent battles, with all their awful losses and conspicuous displays of heroism, at the actual site.

One of the great privileges for me has always been to be present at the Dawn Service in Martin Place with so many other Australians, both young and old, as a mark of respect for all those Australians who have sacrificed so much in helping shape Australia.

The tradition started because of an event that took place on 24 April 1927, when the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs held its annual general meeting in Martin Place between Pitt and Castlereagh streets. The meeting was followed by a dinner and a few drinks.

This particular dinner lasted well into the early hours of Anzac Day. A group from that dinner headed towards Martin Place singing a number of the popular songs of the time like It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack up your Troubles and so on. When they reached the GPO at Martin Place they saw an elderly lady holding a bunch of flowers. As she walked forward to place her flowers down on the bare granite she tripped over and dropped them.

The men immediately rushed to the elderly lady's side to help her. She rose and continued towards the memorial site, placed her flowers and knelt down in prayer. Seeing this, the men followed her and one by one they each knelt beside her in silent prayer and the Martin Place Dawn Service was born.

From the rowdy beginnings of that evening came a profound and monumental gesture to our fallen servicemen and women. The five ex-servicemen who first took part in this unofficial dawn service were Jim Davidson, Ernie Rushbrook, George Patterson, Len Stickley and Bill Gamble. The elderly lady's name was never known.

The sight of this elderly lady had such an impact on the men that it prompted them to encourage the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs to organise an official Anzac Day dawn service to be held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place.
The first dawn service was held in 1928 and was attended by about 200 people, including the five men who were instrumental in its inception. Each year the numbers grew and by 1930 there were approximately 1,000 attendees. Today many thousands of people attend in remembrance of our fallen servicemen and women.

During the Kokoda campaign Sapper Bert Beros wrote this while thinking about his family:

I stand and watch you, little son,
Your bosom's rise and fall,
An old rag dog beside your cheek,
A gayly coloured ball.
Your curly hair is ruffled as you
Rest there fast asleep,
And silently I tip-toe in
To have one last long peep.
I come to say farewell to you,
My little snowy son.
And as I do I hope that you will
Never slope a gun,
Or hear dive-bombers and
Their dreadful whining roar,
Or see or feel their loads of death
As overhead they soar.
I trust that you will never need
To go abroad to fight,
Or learn the awful lesson soon
That might to some is right,
Or see your cobbers blown to scraps
Or die a lingering death,
with vapours foul and filthy
When the blood-flow chokes the breath.
I hope that you will never know
The dangers of the sea.
And that is why I leave you now
To hold your liberty,
To slay the demon War God
I must leave you for a while
In mother's care - till stars again
From peaceful heaven smile.
Your mother is your daddy now,
To guard your little ways,
Yet ever I'll be thinking of you both
In future days.
I must give up your tender years,
The joys I'll sorely miss,
My little man, farewell, so long,
I leave you with a kiss.

WHY MARCH??

 

I saw a kids marching with medals on his chest
He marched alongside Diggers marching six abreast,
He knew that it was ANZAC DAY – He walked along with pride
He did his best to keep in step with the Diggers by his side.

And when the march was over the kid was rather tired.
A digger said: “Whose medals son?” To which the kids replied,
“They belong to daddy but he did not come back,
He died up in New Guinea on a lonely Jungle track.”

The kid looked rather sad then, and a tear came to his eye.
The digger said: “Don’t cry my son, and I will tell you why,
Your daddy marched with us today – all the bloomin’ way.
We diggers know that he was there – it’s like that on Anzac Day.”

The kid looked rather puzzled and didn’t understand,
But the digger went on talking and started to wave his hand.
“For this great land we live in, there’s a price we had to pay.
And for this thing called freedom, The diggers had to pay.”

“For we all love fun and merriment in this country where we live,
The price was that some soldier his precious life must give –
For you to go to school my lad and worship God at will,
Someone had to pay the price – so the diggers paid the bill.”

“Your daddy died for us my son – For all things good and true,
I wonder if you can understand the things I’ve said to you.”
The kid looked up at the digger – just for a little while,
And with a changed expression, said with a lovely smile:

“I know my daddy marched here today – This our ANZAC DAY,
I know he did – I know he did – All the bloomin’ way.”

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM - I remember the eulogy delivered by Prime Minister Keating at the funeral service of the Unknown Australian Soldier in 1993.

“We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.

Yet he has always been among those whom we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century. He is all of them. And he is one of us………..”


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.

Gareth McCray

LEST WE FORGET