Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in a soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace – Kemal Ataturk
Starting in September 2015 in the border city of Albury-Wodonga, the Spirit of Anzac : Centenary Experience had spent the previous 16 months travelling across the country and telling the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War. It’s final stop was the ICC in Sydney and this coincided with the end of the boys trip to Sydney.
The experience used a wide mesh of media to weave the story of a Pre-War Australia, a Federation in it’s teens and the march to war, all the way through the various stages of that war and it’s lasting impact.
Plans for the creation of the ANZAC formation began in November 1914, while Australian and New Zealander troops were still in convoy to the Western Front. Incidentally, in one of those bizarre footnotes in history, those troops were escorted by a Japanese destroyer when they set sail from Albany.
Although mostly comprised of ‘neighbours of the Tasman Sea’ the Corps would count among it’s numbers, Irish Riflemen, Indian Artillerymen, troops from Zion and Ceylon, Welsh Fusiliers and a number of Lancashire regiments.
En route to Europe it was decided to divert the troops to Egypt for training in order to spare them from the harsh English winter. It would prove to be this decision and the proximity it left the ANZACs in, that would change an administrative short-hand into one of the lasting words in Australian history.
Failures by the Royal Navy to force their way past the Dardanelles Straits, and gain access to the Black Sea, led to the War Office, under Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, to green light a full Allied Invasion and he appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the newly formed Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) which contained the ANZAC Corps.
The campaign was a disaster. After 8 months the Allied forces were forced to evacuate back to Egypt, half a million casualties were inflicted and the Ottomans scored their only Campaign Victory of the whole war.
The ‘baptism of fire’ for Australian and New Zealander soldiers has been linked to the emergence of both states as independent nations and that in disaster a unique identity was formed that followed them home after the war. A spark that ignited the imaginations and aspirations of both nations.
It also proved as the first step in the struggle to the independent Turkish Republic 3 years later
Upwards of 1 million men and women took part in the Gallipolli Campaign and while the exhibition could not represent each of them they did concentrate on a few of the more important characters…
Mustafa Kemal – Ataturk – The Father of Modern Turkey
As Commander of the 19th Turkish Division it was he who rightly anticipated where the Allied landings would occur and through his hard work and determination kept them confined on the peninsula. This was to be the moment that greatness was thrust upon him similar to Napoleon Bonaparte at the Siege of Toulon in 1793.
General Sir Ian Hamilton – Senior Commander of the MEF
Where one Military Career began another ended. Sir Ian,born in Corsica and a veteran of the Boer Wars and the North West Frontier, would face his own personal Waterloo in the Turkish hillsides. Being recalled to London October 1915 marked his final official duty as a member of the British Army.
General Otto von Sanders – German Adviser
The brain immediately thinks of the Orders of Battle being the Australians / New Zealanders vs The Young Turks for control of the Dardanelles. Those who study history know that there was a lot of French, British, Indian and Irish soldiers engaged there. Those of us who really study history know that the Germans were there too.
General Otto von Sanders was a graduate of the famous Berlin Kreigsacademie and following in the footsteps of Moltke and Goltz was appointed as head of the German Military mission to the Ottoman Empire and would play a key role in it’s defence (he was the one who appointed Mustafa Kemal as head of the 19th Turkish Division).
Victory in the campaign led to his rise to Commander of the Army of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.
Lest we forget
As the years progressed during the war there was a dramatic increase in deaths, wounded and those taken prisoner whilst the number of Australians fighting peaked in 1917.
The first casualty was 22 year old Lieutenant Malcolm Chisholm of Sydney who fell near the French town of Ligny-en-Cambresis.
The total is unknown but at least another 60,000 Australians perished and a further 156,000 were wounded or gassed. For New Zealand nearly 17,000 soldiers died and a another 40,000+ were wounded or gassed.
Countless others would suffer from PTSD forever more.
From Gallipoli to the Fields of France
Australian troops were not limited to action on the Southern Theatre. Australian Divisions took part in fighting in Bullecourt, Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres to name just a few. Heavy losses and a lack of appetite for conscription back in Australia led to the creation of the Australian Corps – a new military formation that led the fight in the 1918 Offensives.
There are hundreds of War Cemeteries dotted around the north of France and Belgium. To find a list of those that have a close affinity to the Australian Divisions and the Anzacs you should start here.
Would you like to know more?
Unfortunately our visit marked the final spot for the Anzac Centenary Experience but there are a number of great museums and memorial centers located around Australia that are just as great at sharing the stories, struggles,strifes and success of the Anzac Spirit and those who fought for in the wars.
The Victorian War Memorial in Melbourne is also worth visiting. We also visited this.