Every year on the 25th April, Australia and New Zealand recognise ANZAC Day.
The term A.N.Z.A.C originated in 1916 for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Just one year prior it was the first time Australia and New Zealand had represented their own nations (as an ally to the British Empire) during World War 1. The ANZACs were to lead a huge campaign to capture Gallipoli peninsula via approaching the beaches. Gallipoli was the opening point towards Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.
With the Ottomans advancing northwards into the Caucasus region, Russia appealed for help to relieve the pressure.
It was expected to be a straight forward landing on the Peninsula and unopposed according to the Allies as they initially discounted the fighting ability of the Ottoman soldiers. The super steep, uneven terrain and loose cliffs provided ample sniper nests and general machine gun fire to defend from, utterly leaving the ANZACS in an uphill campaign from the get-go. Quite literally.
“At last the day ended and I can tell you I have never spent nor wish to spend such a long day again. The sights one saw will remain impressed on my memory as long as I live.”
–Private John Gordon, 9th Battalion
The British and Anzac forces only succeeded in getting a toe-hold on the peninsula. Over the next eight long months little progress was made, and the Anzacs were evacuated in December. By January 1916 the last British troops were withdrawn, and the venture abandoned.
Both sides suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Around 8,200 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli and the events that followed had a profound impact on Australians at home. The 25th of April soon became the day on which Australians remember the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
THE CASUALTIES OF THE EIGHT MONTH GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN
The New Zealand government’s historical record can be seen in this interactive graphic here
The numbers according to Australian War Memorial and ‘Bully Beef and Balderdash’ a book by Graham Wilson shows:
- Australia: 50,000 served in Gallipoli campaign, 5482 killed in action, 2012 died of wounds, 665 died of disease, total deaths 8159, 17,924 wounded, 70 prisoners of war.
- New Zealand: 8556 served, 2721 died, 4752 wounded, total casualties 7473.
- Britain: 410,000 served, 41,148 killed, 78,000 wounded, total casualties 119,148.
- India: 5000 served, 1350 died, 2700 wounded, total casualties 4050.
- Newfoundland: 1000 served, 49 killed, 300 wounded, 349 total casualties.
- France: 79,000 served, 9789 killed, 17,371 wounded, total casualties 27,169.
- Turkey: estimated 85,000 dead, 250,000 casualties.
The Anzacs were courageous and although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy.
What happens on ANZAC Day?
Anzac Day remembrance takes two forms. Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing in Gallipoli – across the nation. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities. Commemorative ceremonies are more formal and are held at war memorials around the country. More details to follow in the next post
There is also the dawn service held every year at Gallipoli Where the previous last surviving Gallipoli veterans, and many Australian and New Zealand tourists travelled to Turkey for a special Dawn Service at Gallipoli.
Originally during the remaining years of World War 1, Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and marches of serving members held in most cities. From 1916 onwards, in both Australia and New Zealand, Anzac memorials were held on or about 25 April, mainly organised by returned servicemen and school children in cooperation with local authorities. We know them as the ‘RSL’ or The Returned and Services League.
With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day also served to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in that war. The meaning of Anzac Day today includes the remembrance of all Australians killed in military operations.
Aussie Traditions and rituals including ANZAC biscuits, the symbols of poppy and Rosemary, ‘Gun fire breakfast’ and how memorials have been interrupted by the ‘Flu’, Corona Virus and fear of attacks will be included in my next piece on ANZAC day.
Also I will share stories of some of legends including John Simpson and his Donkey, and importantly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in the armed forces.
Thanks for reading.