ANZAC Day 2012

April 25 is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. It is the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops (ANZACs) landing on a beach at Gallipoli, Turkey, on April 25, 1915.

Australia became a nation on January 1, 1901. Prior to that we were six self-governing colonies of the British realm, even if we acted like a nation in many respects.

The Gallipoli landing in 1915 was the first military action by ANZAC troops during the first world war and is generally regarded here in Australia as the point in time that we ‘grew up’ as a nation.

We don’t celebrate ANZAC Day because Gallipoli was a wonderful military victory. In fact, it was a disastrous defeat.

We remember ANZAC Day because it was the first time that we, as a nation, learned about the collective pain, sacrifice and heartbreak of war. We honor the sacrifice made by those who serve and choose to reflect with sobriety on the tasks our servicemen and women have undertaken in various theatres of war since Gallipoli.

The objective of the Gallipoli campaign was to take Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman empire (they were chummy with the German enemy at the time) and make the straits of the Dardanelles available to the allied naval forces. What ensued was an eight month campaign in an area now called ANZAC Cove – the Turkish government officially recognised the name in the 1980’s – that saw more than 10,000 ANZACs killed, along with 21,000 British soldiers, 10,000 French and over 1,000 British Indian troops. There were tens of thousands of casualties on the Ottoman side, too.

I’m not a pro-war person, but I do recognise the need to protect our borders, support our allies and be present and accounted for in a time of need. Today we remember those who have placed themselves in harm’s way on behalf of our nation. Some have returned, many have not.

The following verse, originally written by Laurence Binyon, will be recited in services all around Australia today.

They shall not grow old as we who 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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  1. So, were there Australian troops with T. E. Lawrence when he entered Damascus in 1918?

      1. I seem to remember somewhere in Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence that there was an Australian detachment with him at least at one time. Certainly there were Australian troops with General Allenby for the Jerusalem campaign.

        In war nothing substitutes for good leadership. As is characteristic of WWI these are staggering losses. I’m glad you got better leaders by the end of the war.


  2. Steven, if you have not seen the 1981 movie Gallipoli ( I highly recommend it. It stars a very young Mel Gibson and is one of the few movies that brings me to tears every time I see it. The sacrifices that were made on the front lines while the (British) generals were lounging at the rear should make any Aussie or Kiwi proud of their commitment to their nascent countries.

    1. I should also add it was written and directed by Peter Weir, certainly well known to any Aussie film fan.

    2. Haven’t seen it for many years, Craig, but I first saw it when I was a kid, pretty close to when it was released, actually. I’ve probably seen it once or twice since, but not for a long time. A fine film. One of the best to have come out of Australia.

  3. Being a Military Historian this was the ANZAC’s greatest sacrifice during WWI. The Great War was not only in the trenches in France but East Africa, the naval battles of the Pacific, where the Japanese routed the German garrison at Tsing Tao, China. Even off the coast of the Falkland Islands warships clashed.

    The Gallipoli Campaign led to the eventual downfall of the Turkish Empire. Australia has always sacrificed so much to the defense of freedom of the oppession in the world as well as defending Britain. As an ex-pat Brit I cannot overstate what was done and we also have to thank equally, New Zealand, Canada and all the other Commonwealth countries who gave their best

    1. Frankly as a soldier, I prefer General Patton’s approach to war, which might be paraphrased as “the idea is to win.” If you want a more direct quote then watch the movie.

  4. One of the poignant aspects of ANZAC day to me is that we are largely remembering the committment and loss of people who were defending other countries against oppressive forces, not Australia or New Zealand. In other words, Australians and New Zealanders have predominantly gone to war to assist others and lost their lives this way. Thus, its a sombre and reflective time, not a celebration of victories or the like.

    Of course some of this gets messy once you get into a widespread war and counter-offensives/attacks like Gallipoli or the Pacific campaign to halt Japan’s march south through Asia in WWII illustrate this but nevertheless, I find it a striking facet of our military history.