The ANZAC Legend – 25th April
Back in 2015, I was presented with an opportunity to enter a competition known as ‘The Premier’s Spirit of the ANZAC Prize.’ My entry for this prize was a piece of instrumental which I composed, along with a spoken word dialogue chronicling the history of the ANZACs through the First World War. Unfortunately, I do not have the recording of the music with me in Cape Town, but I was able to locate the dialogue, which is provided below for you to enjoy. Written by Max Fahler
The ANZAC Legend
“Of all the traditions that Australians hold dear, none is held more dearly than the Anzac tradition. It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian.”. – John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia 1996-2007
In the eleventh hour of the fourth day of the eighth month 1914, Great Britain and Germany would be in a state of war. Australia had only been federated 13 years earlier and although there was no legal reason for Australia to join the Great War because of the British Empire, Australia still showed loyalty to her mother country by offering over twenty thousand Troops plus the Royal Australian Navy to the British before the First World War had started.
Australia’s official defence plan only addressed the defence of our country, therefore our young nation would need a new type of volunteer army for overseas service. On the 15th of August 1914 the 1st Australian Imperial Force was raised. Men from all around Australia answered the call. One man rode 460 miles from central Queensland to a railhead in Adelaide, he found there were no positions available in the Light Horse, so he travelled to Hobart. There were no positions available in Hobartxii. Finally, after travelling over 2000 miles, he found a position in the army as a private. Whole cattle stations would lose all of their workers, because Australians not only had a sense of loyalty to Great Britain but also their fellow Australians. The great Australian value of mateship was clearly showing.
Australia was soon to enter the fighting. The Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force made engagements with the Germans on the lands of German New Guinea beginning on the 11th of September 1914. The next major conflict Australia would take part in was the Gallipoli campaign, a term known to all Australians. The Australian New Zealand Army Corps landed on the shore of Ari Birun which would, after the Gallipoli landings become famously known as ANZAC Cove. Geographically ANZAC cove was easily defendable and our ANZACs fought hard to gain a foot hold on the beach. The fighting was tough. In one instance the Australians lost 2,277 men in a few days, those four days were during the battle of Lone Pine, where the Australians put themselves on the map for their courage and being able to take near impossible objectives such as the Nek and Quinn’s post. Today in the Australian and New Zealand Armies, such values that the ANZAC volunteers displayed are still present and stronger than ever. They will get the job done and still manage to have a sense of humour whilst at it, these values have lasted for over 100 years and are definitely present in our current generations, and will last for the next 100 years and beyond.
Come mid December the British government ordered the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. By the 20th of December the forty one thousand strong ANZAC forces had evacuated Gallipoli with barely any casualties. By the 8th January one hundred and forty-two thousand troops had been evacuated. The total number of ANZAC casualties were 26,111 wounded and 7,779 deaths. These numbers had a massive impact on our nation, who’s estimated population was only around four point nine million, during the whole war Australia had the highest percentage of deaths between the allied nations, sixty four percent of diggers would become casualties during the Great Warxiii. The evacuated Gallipoli veterans headed back to Egypt for a well earned rest.
The ANZACs reorganised themselves at Egypt, and a second Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was formed. The ANZAC Mounted Division joined the Desert Column of the British Expeditionary Force and I ANZAC and II ANZAC would sail to France – The Western front. The ANZACs continued to make a name for themselves in this territory, taking part in battles such as the Somme, which lasted some 140 days, the battles of Fromelles, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Villers-bretonneux and Amiens. Each of these are household names today. The last engagement that the ANZAC blood was spilt in during WW1 was the battle of Montbrehain. From the 8th August 1918 to the 5th of October 1918, 27,000 Diggers had been killed or wounded, 27,000 casualties in only 59 days. By the end of the war 61,512 Australians had been killed or died of wounds or disease, and 152,000 had been wounded. The endurance that our nation’s sons and daughters displayed throughout the war is completely faultless.
Today the ANZAC legend lives on strong in our hearts. If it wasn’t for those brave men and women who when called to defend their country did so with such honour and determination, we may not be here today. The Australians who lived through the First World War have taught many generations what it is to be Australian; loyalty, courage, getting the job done, endurance and reckless valour. Charles Bean was stated – for the men of the first AIF:
“They’re not heroes. They do not intend to be thought or spoken of as heroes. They’re just ordinary Australians, doing their particular work as their country would wish them to do it. And pray God, Australians in days to come will be worthy of them.”
God answered his prayer and when called upon we are ready. When it comes time to remember the fallen, we will remember them; when it comes time to remember the sacrifices they made to ensure the safety of our nation, we will remember them and know that the brave men and women who defend our country will be ready; it is their spirit, our history, and our children’s future. The ANZAC Legend lives on.
V Sandler, Stanley. “G.” Ground warfare an international encyclopaedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002. 310. Print
vi Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1998). Where Australians Fought: The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles (1st ed.).
xii Gordon, Harry. “A botched landing, and a legend is born.” The Official Bicentennial diary. Brisbane: Sunshine Diaries, 1987. 92. Print.
xiii Scott, Ernest. “Appendix 7.” Australia during the war. Sydney: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1936. 874. Print.
iii Melbourne Museum – http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/themes/1850/australian-imperial-forces-aif
iv ABC News – http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/claims-of-australian-war-crimes-in-first-wwi-engagement/5734180
i History Channel television advertisement – 100 years ago today…
ii Lieutenant Colonel Neil Smith (ret)