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Fighting for their Countries
April 25th is Anzac Day, celebrated in Australia and New Zealand simultaneously. Our troops fought side by side and did what was asked of them through thick and thin, fighting back nerves and fear, trudging on into the face of the enemies bullets and feeling the pain of every shot that killed their mates, brothers and sisters beside them in battle
Australia was a nation of just seven million people in 1939 and of them one in seven went to war and of them 39,366 were killed. These people were not necessarily conscripted but volunteered their services for their nation. Brave, strong, determined and prepared to face what was coming their way they boarded ships and landed in far off places, some with romantic or mysterious names, and they took their punishment.
In the recorded faces of them on the battlefield you learn something about Australia and New Zealand that is not in the history books, There is a spirit in this place that belongs to a wonderful proud and determined nation and it is called the Spirit of Anzac
Gallipoli - Turkey
Landing of troops on this peninsula
They Were all Volunteers
The stories they tell are horrendous
It wasn't Australia that was threatened but the mother country, Great Britain. Hitler had invaded Poland and Churchill declared war on Germany. That brought all the commonwealth nations into a fight that would be the most costly battle ever staged, in both human terms and economically. Before this war even started millions were dead at the hands of 2 dictators. Hitler and Stalin.
The latter had killed off over 7 million who threatened his rule. Some put his total death toll to well over 28 million. Hitler's death toll is probably uncountable, if the truth be known, but well over 50 million military and civilian personnel died before the Second World War ended.
So England declared war and instantly Australia and New Zealand were also at war. That is the power of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Many times pondering the strength of this great body of people my heart skips a beat when so many who now live here are calling for its end. They want to go it alone, become independent, stand on our own feet and elect some ex-politician as President or Governor, They want to kill the spirit born in us to be free and to part of a great team.
They simply don't understand the sacrifices and horror that our forebears went through to build this nation. What happened in the two World Wars is history but what Australia and New Zealand did is often overlooked or forgotten. Hopefully, through this story, they will learn the facts of our past and why Australia is now a strong, independent and rather wealthy nation.
As a young nation of barely more than a 100 years old with a Feberal Parliament only 13 years old Australia was asked for the ultimate sacrifice. Australia's population 1914-1918 was around 4 million. Of those 416,809 enlisted to serve and the casualties would be high.
"Most of the men recruited into the Australian Imperial Force at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 were sent to Egypt to meet the threat which the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) posed to British interests in the Middle East and to the Suez Canal. After four and a half months of training near Cairo, the Australians departed by ship for the Gallipoli peninsula, together with troops from New Zealand, Britain, and France. The aim of this deployment was to assist a British naval operation which aimed to force the Dardanelles Strait and capture the Turkish capital, Constantinople." Source
It was Winston Churchill who dreamed up the campaign to land troops at Gallipoli. At the time he served in the Admiralty and his idea seemed to be that these troops were expendable and it would afford the British ships more time to get through the Dardanelles and attack from the other side. But things went horribly wrong when the soldiers landed and faced a firing squad of Turkish origin reigning down from above. With no cover on the beach and only a steep cliff with almost impossible climbing possibilities ahead of them they were trapped and massacred.
To this day Anzac Cove remains the most sacred place for Australians to remember this sacrifice. Churchill was forced to resign and subsequently joined the French Army before returning to England in 1917.
The Australian War Memorial describes it this way: "The Australians landed at what became known as ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, and they established a tenuous foothold on the steep slopes above the beach. During the early days of the campaign, the allies tried to break through the Turkish lines and the Turks tried to drive the allied troops off the peninsula. Concerted but unsuccessful allied attempts to break through in August included the Australian attacks at Lone Pine and the Nek. All attempts ended in failure for both sides, and the ensuing stalemate continued for the remainder of 1915."
The casualties suffered by Australia, according to the Australian War Memorial, are these:- "In seven months at Gallipoli Australia lost 8.700 of its finest."
"At almost 65%, the Australian casualty rate (proportionate to total embarkations) was the highest of the war." cited Patsy Adam-Smith, The ANZACS (West Melbourne, Vic.: Thomas Nelson, 1978)
The Birth of the Anzacs
The two armies that fought side by side
Aside from the Australian soldiers who fought bravely and tentatively to capture the hill on which so many died there were our brothers from across the Tasman, the New Zealanders.
The climate was extremely hot in summer and freezing in winter. Men would succumb to their wounds before being rescued often because of it. Add to that the flies and other pests which inhabited the fox holes as constant companions. One doesn't thinks about fleas, sand flies, and other bugs in a war zone, but they are there.
To Lift their head above the rim of their hole would often see a bullet penetrate straight through some part of the unfortunate soldier's head. Food was scarce and often fetid, there were rats and vermin invading and nibbling at human flesh while soldiers tried to sleep for a few hours at a time crammed into their dug outs. Stomache problems, probably brought on by food poisoning, saw diarrhea and cramps as a constant hazard and other illnesses not far away.
From the 'digging' of these holes the term 'digger' was derived as an affectionate name for Aussies troops and returned soldiers. Later the slooch hat was designed as a way of keeping the sun off the head and shoulders of those in conflict. It became a symbol of bravery and sacrifice in subsequent conflicts and has never wained in highlighting the digger from his allies and enemies.
There was not much difference between the Aussies and their New Zealand mates as they bravely fought on. There is some good humoured rivally about some things brought up against each other, such as the accents. But we live together in harmony today as we have done always.
Australia and New Zealand troops of the first World War are remembered as ANZAC's and all are loved and honoured on their special day.
Aussies at War
From Such a Young Country they Came
The British government led our men to slaughter and they took the brunt of some of the worst fighting in history. A century or so earlier most of their ancestors were sent out here to penal institutions, such as Port Arthur, for crimes as petty as taking a loaf of bread to feed a starving family.
Transported in horrific conditions many died on route to Botany Bay or elsewhere. Others survived and faced horrible deaths at the hands of British governors, like William Bligh. He was such a shocking administrator that his ship is remembered for the action of some of its men in the classic tale of Mutiny on the Bounty. But he made it back to Britain and then was honoured with a post as Commander in Chief or Governor of this new nation.
Poor souls who came with nothing were whipped, encaserated, poorly fed, enslaved and if they survived they bore children into the worst of poverty and deprivation. It took a hundred years to breed out the anger and to build the numbers into something this country could be proud of. But when facing war the Brits wanted the descendants of those they once could not tolerate and demanded their help sending them off to do battle and help save their precious interests overseas.
There is no doubt, however, that we were also fighting for our freedom for if England fell so to would our government and freedom. We also benefited from the assets England retained. It is believed that our men gave their lives with this in mind.
The young men who were fitted out and transported to the battle zones were decent, loving citizens who rarely had a choice on whether or not they wanted to be there. But many did volunteer in a mistaken sense of loyalty to the land their ancetors had called home.
Yet, they remain unsung heros for most of the world. Only Australians and New Zealanders really know of the sacrifice our boys made in the name of war and freedom, or rather were forced to make in this desolate place, Oh, and the Turks of course knew it and they renamed the area Anzac Cove in honor of the fallen troops who died trapped as if in a turkey shoot. They still honor what took place there and thousands of Aussies make a pilgrimage every year to stand on the site at sunrise on Anzac Day.
To this day Turkey and Australia have a special bond of friendship and understanding and many have come to live here as Aussies themselves. Many of the soldiers who fired against them were devastated that they had to act under orders and massacre the brave men who struggled to survive against impossible odds and without a chance of survival. We know that they were so young and that cries for mothers were heard among the dying. There were few fathers among them and they were our sons, grandsons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins and to those to whom they were not related they were our friends.
So many never came home and are still listed as Missing in Action. No body, no resting site, no mourners, no family tributes except in our hearts and minds when once a year we remember them all on Anzac Day. Is it any wonder that this is our greatest day for remembering so many young men who never grow old as those who are left grow old. The passion, emotions and strength of the Anzac Spirit has the power to change lives.
Laurence Benyon wrote a seven stanza poem called For The Fallen - This part of it is now the Ode of Remembrance 3rd and 4th verses
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
How Much Do You Know About Aussies at War? - They served a mighty role
Have you seen any footage of Aussies fighting before?
Bound for Botany Bay - And we built a great nation
Have You Heard of Framelles? - Where is it?
How many war cemetries do you think remain yet to be discovered?
Another Massive Battle
July 19-20th 1916 an action was started intended as a diversion "from the Battle of the Somme that was taking place about 80 kilometres (50 mi) to the south. The operation, carried out midway between the British-occupied village of Fleurbaix and that of Fromelles behind the German lines, sought to retake a salient just north of the latter, situated at about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the city of Lille"
"After a night and a day of fighting, 1,500 British and 5,533 Australian soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner." The Australian War Memorial describes the battle as "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history." This combined British and Australian campaign will never die and the tragedy wouod never have come to light had not one man persisted in his endeavours to uncover the truth.
"The bodies of Allied soldiers killed in the area re-taken by the Germans were buried in mass graves shortly after the battle. They were transported to sites behind German lines and buried in pits. Most of these pits were discovered by official post-war burial campaigns during the 1920s, which resulted in their re-interral in Imperial War Graves Commission (later known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; CWGC) cemeteries."
Lambis Englezos, an amateur historian, believed he knew the resting place of these soldiers was in a site on the outskirts of Fromelles. They missed being uncovered by post war investigations into war graves. He was right and in 2008 the graves of our long lost diggers and the British soldiers were located and their remains identified through DNA or artifacts associated with the bodies.
There was a lot of work involved and a lot of frustration before reinternment in a new cementery took place for a few hundred remains. "By the end of January 2010, about 70% of the work on the new cemetery (Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery) had been completed. On 30 January 2010, the first body was re-interred with full military honours. All remaining bodies are to be re-interred in individual burial ceremonies during February 2010 by members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Britain) and the Australian Army."
Framelles - Aussies slaughtered and secretly buried
My Tribute to the Anzacs
There is no way of escaping the emotion and pride I feel in writing this lens and having others read about the heroes this small country, which struggles through drought, fire, flood and everything else nature has to offer, has turned out. Women and men, the old and the young, have all been there and done their bit when the chips were down.
What's more they still do. They come from decent stock, not the rich hierarchy of British or other origins, but mostly from immigrants and refugees who flee from terror, poverty, injustice and persecution. Australia started that way and now we are a rich nation but there is something underneath the skin of each one of us which deals in justice for all and a fair go for everyone.
Unfortunately we are predated upon by those with less than good intent who see our land as an opportunity to make themselves wealthy. Who want to seize our assets, our iconic companies and our lifestyle, all of which came through much blood sweat and tears, and their motivation is not in the Australian or the Anzac spirit.
Our men died to keep this country free and democratic. They died to protect a dream that one day this nation would do us all proud and they held their heads up high as they faced the forces that have sought to desroy us, overrun us, occupy us and break us,
This is why they fought the wars and why we remember them. They showed the True Anzac Spirit and for that they live forevermore in our hearts on Anzac Day and whenever we care to turn our attention to what would have happened if they had not made the sacrifices they did. If they had not fought on strange fields far from home, with many not able to return, we now would probably not have what they dreamed as their legacy and our gratitude lives on.
War Heroes - The National Song
Still images from Dreamstime - click here
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