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Remembering the ANZACs

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Bob Bell

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Remembering the ANZACs

Posted 24 Apr 17 by Bob Bell

On Tuesday we commemorate the 102nd Anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli at 4.22am on 25 April 1915. The Gallipoli campaign marked the first time that Australians went into combat as Australians. The term ‘ANZAC’ originated from that time and ANZAC Day, for me Australia’s most significant national holiday, occurs annually on this day.

Turkey (then called the Ottoman Empire) was on the side of Germany in the First World War. The British Generals decided they could defeat Turkey if they could capture the capital city of Istanbul (then called Constantinople).

After the Turks sank several British and French ships in the Dardanelles, it was decided that the only way to capture Constantinople would be to land soldiers near a place called Gallipoli. The closest soldiers were the ANZACs, who had completed their training in Egypt. The Australians were getting restless, and after coming all this way they wanted to see how good they were in battle. They were soon to get their chance

The Anzacs landed on Gallipoli and met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. Their plan to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. 

At the end of 1915, the allied forces were evacuated. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 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 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. 

Australia has played a part in several wars since, and the meaning of Anzac Day includes the remembrance of all Australians killed in military operations.

Most of you (hopefully all) will be familiar with The Ode that is traditionally recited not only at Anzac Day services, but on many other occasions and still at some RSL clubs on a daily basis. The Ode is an extract from Laurence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen, which was published in London in the Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War in 1914.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children 
England mourns for her dead across the sea, 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eyes, 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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again, 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home, 
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime, 
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires and hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain, 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

It is vitally important to the culture and ethos of our nation that we continue to remember the fallen, and to honour those who fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom and security.


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