In Australia, ANZAC Day is a big thing. I remember, every year at school, standing in the quad, some kids fainting from the heat, the headmaster groaning on about sacrifice and a lone bugler playing the Last Post as we stood silently. Well, except for the kids who fainted from the heat who reclined, silently.
Growing up in Australia, I came to believe that it was remembering an awful time when young Australians and New Zealanders were forced into a battle that couldn’t be won and, at best, was an attempt to satisfy Churchill’s bloodlust.
Tonight, I learned a lot more about the Gallipoli landings that happened today, 107 years ago, courtesy of the incredibly knowledgeable Clive Harris. He gave a WFA webinar entitled Holding the Initiative: Gallipoli the first 48 hours through the eyes of two battalions.
There were so many things I didn’t know. For one, while there was a lot of inexperience in the Australian ranks, quite a few had served in South Africa and their military knowledge came in very handy when it came to basic training. Of course, as Nicktor pointed out to me, the Boer War had been around 14 years before and the soldiers would have been a little old. Also, warfare had changed quite a bit.
And, of course, that was a major factor in the amount of losses at Gallipoli. Though, I agree with Clive that, had the ANZACs not gone to Gallipoli and rather, directly to the Western Front, the casualties could well have been a lot higher.
Of course, had they not gone at all, the casualties would have been zero. Not that that was an option.
And the 1981, Peter Weir film, Gallipoli, didn’t do the Brits any favours either. Brilliant though it was.
Something else I had no idea about was the first terrorist act on Australian soil which occurred at Broken Hill on New Year’s Day, 1915. A couple of unhappy chaps (Gool Mohammed and Mullah Abdullah) shot up a train in what became known as The Battle of Broken Hill. They killed four people.
Apparently a carriage is still there, sitting on a bit of rusty track, though, when I visited Broken Hill back in the 1970’s, I don’t remember seeing it. Not that that means much. I don’t remember castles I’ve been to, so an old train carriage is just fodder for forgetting.
The webinar was most informative. I particularly liked the diary entries which Clive used. They gave the whole thing a greater sense of individual humanity to a very big picture.
Obviously, the photos above were taken of my laptop screen. They were created by Clive Harris and not me. Hopefully, he won’t mind.