Archive for the 'Anzac' Category


On ANZAC day: Some overlooked realities behind the ANZAC myth.

Today is Anzac Day, commemorating the date of the landing of Anzac forces at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915.

While it is customary to remember the sacrifices made by a generation of young men in wartime, celebrating bravery and heroism, there is an aspect that is always ignored.

When we say ‘lest we forget’, we choose not to remember some very uncomfortable things.

What Does Glorifying The ANZAC Myth Say About Our Attitudes To Violent Men Today? by Nick Irving


Battle of Fromelles Centenary

bible page

A bible page with passages underlined that was unearthed in 2009. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission).


Today is the centenary of the battle of Fromelles, the first major involvement of Australian forces on the Western Front, described by the Australian War memorial as “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”, with 5,500 Australian casualties including approximately 2000 dead.
Hundreds of Australians went missing and their remains weren’t discovered until recent years when the bodies of 250 men were rediscovered in a mass grave near the battle site.

Also see:


Guardian article by Paul Daley

This blog entry was scheduled for posting at 2.00am on 20th July Sydney time which is approximately 6pm 19th July in Fromelles, France.




11/11 (11.00am)



Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You

grave stoneA few days ago I wrote a little about the centenary of the battle of the Nek, part of the August campaign in Gallipoli 1915.

Today I finished Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, a book by John Hamilton, about the battle of the Nek and how the 8th and 10th Light Horse brigades were mostly wiped out through the foolishness of senior commanding officers.

In recent years in Australia, there was national mourning whenever an Australian serviceman lost his life in Afghanistan, and their funerals would be attended by the Prime minister and other political and community leaders. There would probably have been community outrage had war fatalities risen to significant numbers. During 13 years in Afghanistan there were 41 Australian military deaths. At the Nek there were at least 234 deaths and around 140 wounded out of the approximately 600 troops involved, all in matter of an hour or so.

Maybe these figures are no greater than other WWI battles, apart from the manner in which they were sustained, with the troops being ordered into a situation that had been proven hopeless within minutes of it starting. But what happened there (and elsewhere in WWI) showed an attitude to human life that would be foreign to modern Australia.

Apart from the military orders that caused the slaughter of so many, that attitude is also reflected in the way it was reported in the press when the story got out at home.

Here is an example quoted in Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, starting with a description of the second wave of 150 men sent charging towards the Turkish lines:

Before they had gone half way upon their course not more than twenty were on their feet but they still charged. It was heroic! It was wonderful! In a few seconds, the twenty had dwindled to a dozen, to ten, to seven, to three. Would these last survivors persist? Two dropped. One struggled to his feet again, only to sag at the knees and go down a second time. The last remaining hero looked around. His face was red, his eyes were staring, but he smiled grimly. Still he ran to tackle the enemy single-handed but the end of the race was near, He stopped as if some invisible obstacle had blocked the way. For an instant he stood still. He then toppled backwards, holding his rifle, with the bayonet fixed, high above his head. The charge had finished. (from the Argus,8th October)

I don’t think I need to much further comment, apart from asking what kind of political or cultural conditioning could have led to such an outlook, and how easily could we return to that kind of mindset?

Sadly I think it would be all too easy when patriotism and duty to God become confused.


Anzacs and WWI: 100 years on. (7th August)

gallipoliToday is the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Nek, part of the Gallipoli campaign. It was the event portrayed as the climax of Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli.

Four successive waves of Australian Light Horsemen were ordered to leave the safety of their trenches to attack the Turkish lines only 20-30 metres away. They weren’t allowed to load their weapons but were ordered to charge with bayonets only. They were wiped out by Turkish fire almost as soon as they started.
Even though the outcome was clear after the failure of the first wave, their commanding officer refused to back down and sent three more waves, 150 men in each wave, to certain death.

05_theNekLThe battlefield has been described as being the size of two tennis courts and was a narrow strip of land between two steep drops. Official war historian Charles Bean likened the charge as trying to attack an upturned frying pan by way of the handle.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Brazier tried to put a stop to the inevitable slaughter after the first wave, but his attempt was rejected by Major General Antill who ordered the attack’s continuation. Brazier had been responsible for the recruitment of many of the men who were being sent to their deaths, having encouraged many friends and colleagues to enlist in the 10th Light Horse.

Despite the horrific slaughter, a few survived and were able to crawl back to the safety of their own trenches. Later in the war some of the surviving Light Horsemen were posted to Palestine where they were at last able to serve on horseback, something impossible at Gallipoli. In Palestine they were part of some significant victories and eventually entered Jerusalem along with General Allenby, when the city was surrendered by the Turkish forces.




Anzacs and WWI: 100 years on (6th August)

Today is the centenary of the battle of Lone Pine.

An Australian attack was launched against Turkish trenches to distract attention from other operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. When the trenches were reached it was found they had a “roof” of logs that needed to be removed to engage the Turkish defenders.

A brutal hand to hand battle started and lasted for four days, leading to 2000 Australian and up to 7,000 Turkish casualties.


7 Victoria Crosses were awarded to participants.

The site of Lone Pine is now a significant memorial and burial site for the war dead. A commemoration service is to be held there today at 5pm local time.



For more information about the battle see here:

Also see here for more about commemoration events:


Anzacs and WWI: a family connection?

2015 has been an interesting year.

It is the centenary of the WWI Gallipoli campaign, a defining event in Australia’s history that I knew very little about. As the commemoration of Anzac Day approached, I decided to end my ignorance, and started reading accounts about it from a variety of sources. I’ve already posted a few things about that journey earlier on this blog.

Alongside my own “Gallipoli campaign” I have also been doing some research into my family tree. That was something I started more than 30 years ago when my two Grandmothers were still alive. I obtained as much information as I could from them and then, in those pre-internet days, I hit a dead end.

Recently I decided to see if I could pick things up again after discovering a website that gave free access to basic genealogical records and was able to discover another 100 years of family records, taking me back to the mid-1700s and adding a bit of substance to a few family “myths”.

Yesterday those two different areas of research may have come together. Completely by accident I discovered a man who is possibly a distant relative who served with the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) in the Gallipoli campaign.AIF

He was born in the small English town where I grew up and his (not too common) family name is the same as my Grandmother’s maiden name.

At some stage prior to 1914 he moved to Australia.
He enlisted with the 1st Field Ambulance in Sydney early in September 1914 only three weeks after its formation. A month later he boarded the HMAT Euripides to join the convoy sailing from Albany WA to join the war in Europe. However, the destination changed while they were en route, and they disembarked in Egypt.Euripides

As part of the 1st Field Ambulance he would have been part of the first ANZACS to be sent from Egypt to Gallipoli and could have been among those in the 25th April landing, dealing with the high number of heavy casualties.

So far I’ve not been able to find any specific records related to his service, but as a survivor of Gallipoli, he would have been posted to the Western Front with the rest of the 1st Field Ambulance, where again he survived and returned to Sydney after the war.

Just over 20 years later he was killed in a workplace accident in Sydney.


After writing the above I’ve been able to find a copy of his military record on the National Archives of Australia website and have confirmed that he was at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, but a few days later was shipped off to No.1 General Hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt with a bullet wound to the right thigh.
He re-joined his unit at Gallipoli on 10th July.

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