As I see it: “The Forgotten” 1



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Ernest Hemingway wrote…

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

Despite what some in the RSL (RSA in New Zealand) along with many others might have you believe, Australia and New Zealand were not forged as ‘Nations at Gallipoli’ nor did they ‘come of age’ there!

Unfortunately it was politicians, not historians, who made this ANZAC myth what it is today – nothing more than a fantasied idealist retrospect of what was a bloody catastrophe!

New Zealand and Australian troops formed an alliance. In 1914, the ANZAC’S were born. ANZAC is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and in December 1914 the Australian Imperial Force and New Zealand Expeditionary Force stationed in Egypt were placed under the command of Lieutenant General William Birdwood.

Initially the term Australasian Corps was suggested, but Australians and New Zealanders were reluctant to lose their separate identities completely. No one knows who came up with the term ANZAC. It’s likely that Sergeant K.M. Little, a clerk at Birdwood’s headquarters, thought of it for use on a rubber stamp: ‘ANZAC’ was convenient shorthand. Later the corps used it as their telegraph code word. The ANZAC’s first saw action at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The small cove where the Australian and New Zealand troops landed was quickly dubbed Anzac Cove. Soon the word was being used to describe all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Eventually, it came to mean any Australian or New Zealand soldier. These forces at Gallipoli were indeed ‘fighting for our freedom ‘and their lives. Alongside this, is received wisdom such as how an Englishman and a donkey somehow embodied the ANZAC spirit and that the Aussies and Kiwis could have succeeded if it wasn’t for British amateurism and tea making. The merits or accuracy of these legends can be debated endlessly (Mat Hardy; Lecturer in Middle East studies at Deakin University).

However one of the clichés that always irks me is the assertion that at Gallipoli our forces were fighting against Turkey or ‘the Turks’. This is completely incorrect!

Just to provide further factual evidence, you should know this…

unnamed (1)The Republic of Turkey was not declared until 1922 and was only formally recognised in 1923. Prior to that, the place we now call Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire. In 1915 it was Ottoman, not Turkish soldiers that were shooting at the ‘diggers’ (as they later became known) when they hit the beaches in the darkness. Some will try and get around this hair splitting premise, by saying that the Ottoman Empire is synonymous with Turkish ethnicity. This is also false. Even rolled back from its medieval hey-day, the Ottoman Empire of 1915 still covered a wide patch of turf and this included huge numbers of Arabs, Armenians, Greeks and various Caucasians. In fact without the assistance of nearly 300,000 Arabs in the ranks, the Ottoman forces would have never been able to bat on for as long as they did in the First World War. A general policy of making troops serve away from their native lands meant that plenty of the Ottoman troops in the Gallipoli campaign were not ‘Johnny Turk’ at all, but men from the Levant, Iraq and all the far-flung corners of the dying empire.

On the first day of the landings, roughly two thirds of the troops doggedly defending the heights were Arabs, mainly from Syria. They and their like served throughout the war, usually unwillingly. For the Arabs, there was no great love of their Ottoman masters. Many of these conscripts were little more than slave coffles of untrained cannon fodder. Just as Australia has a great deal of national identity invested in Gallipoli, so do the Arabs place a lot of stock in their role fighting against the Ottomans. The Arab Revolt and their use as a guerrilla force against the over-extended supply lines of the Ottomans makes for a good film. This was the point where the noble desert warriors rose up to be a nation again and were to be rewarded with self-determination at the conclusion of the war.

Naturally it didn’t quite pan out that way. The numbers actively involved in the revolt were a fraction of those serving on the other side and the rebels were often from regions where the Ottomans had very little control anyway. Not that it did most of them much good. After the war, the British and French did as they pleased. The Cairo Conference of 1921 saw Churchill and his ‘Forty Thieves’ parcel out the rewards to some favourites and make up some borders, stamping a political geography on the whole Middle East that still persists today. Only two Arabs were invited. Favourites like Faisal and Abdullah were given puppet kingdoms, setting the scene for decades of squabbling and the eventual rise of nationalists like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad a generation later.

So whatever you think about the idea that Australia was ‘forged’ at Gallipoli, the fact remains that many other nations were, much more literally, born from the ashes of the campaign to solve the Eastern question Including Turkey.

Now, here are some alarming facts and figures you may like to ponder… The Battle of Gallipoli took place on a small peninsula on two, later three, different battlefields, not far from each other. On one of these fields merely Anzac soldiers (from Australia and New Zealand) fought – and died. In the other two places British and French troops took the Turkish blow.

The casualty figures give a good understanding of who suffered:

Australia: 18.500 wounded and missing – 7,594 killed.
New Zealand: 5,150 wounded and missing – 2,431 killed.
British Empire (excl. Anzac): 198,000 wounded and missing – 22,000 killed.
France: 23,000 wounded and missing – 27,000 killed.
Ottoman Empire (Turkey): 109,042 wounded and missing – 57,084 killed.
Furthermore 1.700 Indians died in Gallipoli, plus an unknown number of Germans, Newfoundlanders and Senegalese.

The British, French, Ottoman Empire and the Indians, along with Somalis are “THE FORGOTTEN” Yes we remember our ANZAC’s and rightly so. Sons, Fathers & Grandfathers pledged their allegiance before their King, just as every nation did with their own Sovereign.

Pointless senseless loss of beautiful lives… For what? In my opinion one of the biggest British balls-ups in history. Our Grandfathers served their country without question. Today we honour these men, but while we do so on this 101st anniversary let us also honour “The Forgotten”. They too, were Sons, Fathers and Grandfathers.

We all know of someone who fought in that horrendous war at Gallipoli… We are after all both small Nations.

Today, this ugly war continues as our troops are now deployed to the Middle East. Let us remember all who have served and are still serving our countries, as we take a moment to reflect…

“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!!”

As Hemingway said…

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

Share your thoughts… Will you be attending The Dawn Service this year?

Many thanks to my researcher; Dr. Hanay Qulacq PhD. MPhil. (Middle Eastern Studies)
The figures of wounded, missing and killed are educated guesses, but still approximate and controversial. They are taken from various sources, i.c., Official Turkish, Dr Geoffrey Partington, Bernd Langensiepen, Robert Rhodes James, Spencer Tucker and Geoffrey Moorhouse.

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Brian Portland

Broadcast Journalist.. Australasian Correspondent FSN Washington & London. Speech Writer..Motivational Speaker.. Production Voice Specialist.. Creative Writer.. (Speech, Print, Radio & Television) Double above knee amputee.. Motivational Speaker..(Available for any speaking engagement..)

  1. I do go to the Dawn Service with my son and his friends to honour my Father and all who fought in all the wars that our country and other countries have been involved in. It is always the families of the soldiers as well as our soldiers that suffer the decisions of our governments.

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