April 25 is observed as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand

As you read the following, the Clancy Brothers rendition of "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" will be loading (It is long and takes a while). Be sure your sound is turned ON and listen closely to the words of that song. I feel it is among the finest tributes to those who fought and died, or fought and returned from Gallipoli.

The Battle of Gallipoli
"At Gallipoli on April 25 romance and realism met on the battlefield. As it always does, romance lost."
(Les Carlyon.)

In 1915 as war embroiled the European continent and the Arabian Peninsula - Australia and New Zealand, though far removed from the dangers of the conflict, and in the gradual transition from being colonial territories to becoming young independent nations, supplied troops to aid the British in preventing the Turks from taking the Suez Canal and control of the Egyptian and Arabian Peninsular regions. The British, with the aid of Arab Gorillas, led by an English firebrand named Thomas Edward Lawrence, had preserved control of the Canal and of Egypt. The Australians and New Zealanders, young, brave, but essentially inexperienced as modern military troops, began training in Egypt, preparatory to being assigned to the European Western Front.

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, in consultation with Lord Kitchener, the Hero of Khartoum and the Secretary of State for War, persuaded the War Council of a strategy to attack Germany through its Turkish ally. The first Sea Lord, Lord John Fisher, sat opposed to the strategy, but under the persuasive influence of Churchill, agreed to it. By neutralizing the Turks, influencing them to surrender, it would leave Germany standing alone to fight the British, French, and Russian allies, and eventually the United States.
The key was to control Constantinople, but heavy shore based gun emplacements and numerous strings of mines below the sea's surface in the Dardenelles Straights would make a naval assault on the Turkish capital doomed to failure. Several failed attempts and the loss of two British and one French Battleships convinced the British that a land assault on the Gallipoli peninsula was needed to disable the Turkish shore batteries, enabling minesweepers to clear the strait unimpeded..
Sir Ian Hamilton was assigned by Kitchener to command the assault on the Peninsula, but Hamilton was ill prepared, his own planning staff only arriving a few days before the planned attack, and he was woefully under supplied with troops and the logistics and support necessary for success. In addition, coordination between Hamilton and the Naval commander, Vice-Admiral John de Robeck, was nearly null, and weeks of newspaper reports discussing Gallipoli as a campaign on the horizon, gave the Turks and Germans every advance indication of the eventuality that they could wish for.

To complement the insufficient manpower of the British 29th Division, the Australian and New Zealand troops in Egypt, under the command of Major General William Birdwood, were assigned to the Gallipoli Campaign. Birdwood was concerned with the overall lack of planning and support and the training of the Aussie and Kiwi troops was still underway, but time being critical, they were shipped to the Greek Island of Lemnos for staging. Many of these troops had no idea of what or where Gallopoli was, just as many Turks had no concept of what or where New Zealand or Australia were. As Les Carlyon relates in his 2001 History Gallipoli

    The Turks tell a story about two New Zealanders they took prisoner in August. The Turks asked them where they were from.
    New Zealand, they said.
    Never heard of it, the Turks replied.
    Several Germans nearby heard the exchange. They told the Turks that New Zealand was in the South Pacific, literally at the other end of the world. The Turks were incredulous.
    Why are you here? they demanded.
    Well, the New Zealanders explained, they thought the war would be like playing Rugby.
    Australia tripped off to war much the same way: carefree, as full of dreams as a debutante going to a ball. She didn't know what was going to happen, but it was better than sitting at home, and when the ball was over she would be a bigger person than she had been before.
On the 25th of April, 1915, the landings on Gallipoli commenced at Suvla Bay and at Ari Burnu, a rugged beach terrain now called Anzac Cove. For the next seven and a half months, the combined allied forces fought the Turks savagely, sometimes hand to hand, but more often under the seige of heavy machine gun and artillery fire. Many of the young and brave Australians and New Zealanders were cut down still in their landing boats, or while wading ashore.
Others fought for months, dug in in trenches or climbing steep cliffs in attempts to drive the Turks back.
In August, a major campaign was conceived to move past a stalemate and capture the strategic peak of Chunuk Bair. Once again, poor planning, insufficient troops and artillery, a large number of inexperienced British troops, replacements only weeks from the farms and towns of England, and a disastrous appointment of the inept Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford as commander of IX Corps led to lost ground and the death and maiming injury of many more young bodies. Stopford might better have been assigned to the Doyle Carte Opera Company for permanent casting as Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance.
On December 15th, the last of the remaining troops were evacuated, and the horror of the war moved to the Western front in France where many more on both sides, and now Americans as well, died from bullets, shells, grenades, and gas.
In the Gallipoli Campaign, the first hardened test of the bravery and grit of the Aussies and Kiwis, 7600 of Australia's finest youth and 2500 of the finest Kiwis met death in the water and on the beaches and ravines of the Gallipoli Peninsula. In addition, 19000 Aussies and 5000 Kiwis sustained injuries, many that crippled them for life.

It was a brutal page from the history of warfare, and much can be attributed to the heartless wisdom of politicians, far removed from the fields of danger, and to some military egoists, like British Commander of the 29th Division, Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, who stated, "Casualties? What do I care for casualties?.....provided the objective was gained, casualties (are) of no importance."

They are likely all gone now, if any remain, it is barely a handful, but their courage lives on to eternity, and for over eighty five years, they have been remembered and their glories cherished, a tradition that will live forever.
The term ANZAC was thus born, a term which shall forever endear itself to Australians and New Zealanders. It shall stand forever for "valour, endurance, hardship, and mateship" and serve as an eternal memorial for those from down under who fought and died then and in all wars since. Perhaps, as we find ourselves today in a world beset by continued threats to Peace on Earth, it might be well, when we think of the heroic glory of war, to consider the words penned by Siegfried Sassoon in Suicide in Trenches

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

It is with a deepest admiration and respect that we from other countries salute those who gave what can be called, "the last full measure of devotion." I am proud to hold among my closest friends, many Aussies and Kiwis, and as I salute them at this time of honor and remembrance, and stand in awe at the courage that flows, still today, in their veins.

On April 25th, I shall be wearing a poppy in remembrance.

The preceding material was prepared as an informative summary of what ANZAC Day is all about primarily for American and Canadian (and other non Kiwi and Aussie) viewers. It doesn't presume to tell the people of New Zealand and Australia something which they know far better than I. However, it is hoped that its presentation is welcomed and appreciated by those down under as we in other countries attempt to gain an appreciation for this most important day. Worldwide understanding is one brick of the foundation of worldwide peace.
In my research for this summary of the meaning of ANZAC Day, I relied on my own previous reading of history and particularly on several biographies I have read of Sir Winston Churchill, Les Carlyon's Gallipoli and of many web sites dedicated to preserving the history of this tragic but noble page from the history of warfare. The following links are but a few of the many web sites from which you may obtain the full history of the Battle of Gallipoli. Several of them served as the sources for graphical images displayed in this page. I respectfully and collectively acknowledge them for their wealth of information.

Update 11/19/10 - Some of the following links are no longer available. The list is being revised and will replace this list soon.

A detailed source

Web page of the Gallipoli Association

A detailed history of the battle (includes the full lyrics of the song)

A roll of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Officers slain at Gallipoli

A battle history, somewhat critical of Churchill's decision to proceed

Another excellent history (features additional links)

A source of references and battle awards and decorations

A history from FORSNET

A history from NZHistory.net

A discussion of the tradition in Australia

A commemorative site featuring several poems written in honor of the ANZAC troops

Australian National Days of Commemoration site

Anzac Day Tradition site

An interactive site from New Zealand

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