Anzac Day 2015

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

 

 

 

Something for the weekend, The Last Post.  One hundred years ago the Gallipoli campaign began.  Australian, New Zealand, British and French troops would slug it out for over eight months in ferocious fighting over the Dardanelles, the pathway to Constantinople and perhaps an early end to the Great War.  Although unsuccessful, the raw courage, tenacity and resourcefulness of the Australian and New Zealand troops were sources of pride for their young nations and they are remembered each April 25 on Anzac Day.

 

 

It is remembered by me each year as a salute to the courage and self sacrifice it honors.

At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

We are the ANZAC Army

The A.N.Z.A.C.

We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

What bloody good are we ?

And when we get to Ber – Lin

The Kaiser, he will say

Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

What a bloody odd lot

to get six bob a day.

The Anzac troops referred to themselves as “six bob a day tourists”.  By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the War a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.  Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German Desert Fox, rated the New Zealanders as the finest troops he ever saw. 

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Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. The Gallipoli landings were doomed before they started, for a very simple reason that English-speaking historians seem never to have heard of. No more than three years earlier, a major naval battle had been fought in the very same spot between the Italian and Turkish navies, the last engagement of the war between Italy and Turkey for control of Libya (and eventually of Rhodes and the islands of the Dodcanese). The Italians had intended to force the straits, sink the Turkish navy at anchor in Gallipoli and bomb the capital Istanbul. The mission failed, but Turkey, already faced with the unexpectedly huge forces of the Balkan allies, surrendered anyway, leaving Italy in possession of everything she had occupied. Obviously, only three years later, the Turks were not going to be caught by surprise in the same strategic position. The Allies would have done much better to land somewhere to the west of Gallipoli and push for the capital from there. Only the incredible courage of the men sent to die in this lost-before-it-started effort allowed it to even keep going as long as it did.

    • The essential necessity for a campaign to take Constantinople was Greece coming in on the side of the Allies. Absent that, the Dardanelles was not a pathway to Constantinople, but rather a trap.


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