Australians and New Zealanders have long enjoyed a healthy rivalry; both neighbours and siblings, competitors and opponents. We share a history of torments and jokes aimed at one another other but when the need arises, we band together with a bond so strong that it is admired and respected by military forces all around the world.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and it encapsulates the spirit and mateship that the soldiers who fought in the first world war are remembered for today. ANZAC day specifically marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand forces.
In 1915, the ANZACs formed part of the campaign whose objective was to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate goal was to capture Constantinople (now named Istanbul) which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire - an ally of Germany.
On the morning of 25 April, the ANZACs landed on Gallipoli Peninsula and were met with unexpectedly fierce resistance. What was planned to be a quick, bold move to knock Turkey out of the war turned into an eight-month deadly stalemate. Both sides suffered heavy casualties with more than 8,700 Australian soldiers, 2,779 New Zealand soldiers and at least 87,000 Ottoman soldiers dying in the campaign. In total, more than 130,000 men died, totaling about a sixth of all those who landed on the peninsula. At the end of 1915, the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula.
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its objectives, the actions of the Australian and New Zealand forces forged a great bond between the two nations and a great legacy. The “ANZAC legend” was born. The 25th of April soon became the day which both nations remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by those who died in the first world war and today we also remember all who have died in military service throughout both nations’ history.
As a schoolboy, ANZAC Day meant a lot to me. It was a time to remember, a time to reflect and a time to thank all those who fought and those who lost their lives at Gallipoli in particular, but also in every other military conflict. However, at that young age, it was difficult to grasp the death toll. It was a number so great to a young mind it was beyond comprehension. As an adult, the scale of the devastation and sacrifice was easier to understand. You begin to imagine the flow on effect from each man lost. The mother, the father, the siblings, the wives, and girlfriends. The Gallipoli campaign had a massively profound effect on the people back home in Australia.
As the father of a young child, the numbers become even more devastating. Every single loss, every single figure has a face in your mind. You imagine the emotions of the men who knew they were running into an almost certain fate. The memories of their loved ones that would have been flashing through their minds as they fought and as they lay wounded and dying on the battleground.
Australian and New Zealand soldiers maintain the legend with pride and with the same bravery and mateship that the original ANZACs forged with their blood. Our nations are forever grateful for the service of every single man and women throughout our military history, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can have our way of life. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
On every 25 April, at dawn and throughout the day…
We will remember them.