Anzac is a word that more than any other stirs our thoughts of courage, of sacrifice, of compassion and comradeship, of a quality that in the whole history of human conflict has rarely been equaled. The awesome experience of the Anzac Campaign welded the fledging country of Australia, formed from a collection of Colonial States, into a nation of people who were proud to be Australian.
Details of approximately 330,000 AIF personnel, recorded as they embarked from Australia for overseas service during the First World War can be located http://www.awm.gov.au/research/people/nominal_rolls/first_world_war_embarkation/
The Gallipoli and the Anzacs website has been created by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Visit http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/ to learn more about World War One.
War is too important to be left to generals was Georges Clemenceau’s famous statement made at the end of the Boer War. Britain was all too aware of the validity of this statement and a committee for Imperial Defence was formed. At this same time the defence forces of the States were being re-organised into the Army of the Commonwealth of Australia by Major General Sir Edward Hutton. In 1903 a graduate from the Royal Canadian Military College, Kingston, William Bridges, was appointed to his staff as Assistant Quartermaster-General.
In 1906 William Bridges was sent to London to learn more about mobilisation and citizen armies. When he returned to Australia he began working on a plan of defence for the Commonwealth. In 1909 Bridges was back in London representing Australia on the Imperial General Staff. It was an elated Brigadier General Bridges who retuned to Australia as Commandant of the Royal Australian Military College. The dream of so many was at last to be reality and after careful consideration Duntroon, on the outskirts of Canberra, was chosen. He was commandant for three years and established a military college of the highest standard.
Three months after Colonel Bridges left Duntroon Britain declared war on Germany and he was made commander of the 1st Australian Imperial Force.
At 4.29am on the morning of the 25th April the Australians reached the shore but high above the beach Turkish rifles and machine guns welcomed them with a hail of bullets. The Anzacs had been landed at a beach considered only days before as impossible for a successful landing by General Birdwood. The bravery and stamina of Australia’s manhood had begun to write, with blood, a page of history!
On the morning of 15 May General Bridges was fatally wounded. Before his death three days later he was to be appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath – the first such award to the Australian Services. His body was brought back to Australia and laid to rest overlooking his beloved Duntroon Royal Australian Military College.
Aboard one of the Ships plowing her way through the Indian Ocean in November 1914 was a young Australian, Arthur Keppie. The letters he wrote to his mother could have been written by any of those eager, earnest young men. The stark realities of what lay ahead seemed to be far off and quite unreal. His letters were written from the Euripidies. Let me share some excerpts from his letters.
Thursday, 5th November, 1914.
On Sunday morning at 7.30, we left Albany and Australia. It was a lovely morning and it was a grand sight, as all the transports fell into line and steamed out to sea …
On Monday 9th November we had a little excitement at about seven o’clock. The cruiser Sydney, which is on our left, steamed out of sight, shortly after the Melbourne which was in front at the time, steamed round and took the Sydney’s place. We began to think there was something doing,. especially as we were expecting to meet the Emden. Then the Japanese boat Ibuki on our right steamed across our bows after the others. It was a sight to see her as she tore across with all her guns out and the smoke belching from her three funnels. She looked a picture, it was grand…
Arthur Keppie did not survive the landing at Gallipoli.
The Battle of Amiens in August 1918 used tanks and new tactics tested by General Monash during the previous month. The Germans were forced to retreat to the Hindenburg Line. When this line was broken in early October, worn out, the defeated Germans asked for an armistice. World War I was over on 11 November 1918. Armistice Day is marked by a nationwide short silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year.
A time for us all to reflect on the true meaning of ANZAC.