Why it is important to remember the 25th of April and the forging of nation hood: ANZAC
There is a truism that in order to protect the freedoms of democracy you must first ensure its protection. Sometimes it is good to remember that and those who fought to protect those freedoms. Today we celebrate only a handful of those brave men and women in our own look at history.
This week millions of Australians and New Zealanders will pause to remember the events of the Gallipoli landings on what is now known as ANZAC Cove, a small slither of land in the Dardanelles of Turkey, on the 25th of April 2015. Called the Australian New Zealand Army Corp’s, the cluster of kiwis and Australians was drawn from the towns and cities of those two tiny nations (by population). The result would lead to the greatest loss of life per head of population in the World War 1 campaign and set the scene for a legacy that is enshrined today.
On the 19th of April the order was given that the ANZACs preparations were over and they should begin to prepare themselves for the dawn landings. Stores and weapons were taken on board of the fleet that would transport them and in total seven destroyers and four transport ships made the initial journey. At 1.00am on the fateful morning the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions set off for the beaches. At around 4.30am the first shots were fired as Turkish sentries opened fire on the landing boats even though the first troops had landed at what was known as Beach Z (now ANZAC Cove but known as Ari Burnu at the time). The beach came under heavy fire as men from the 9th and 10th Battalions began to make the climb up the rugged Ari Burnu slopes. When they reached the peak they discovered that the Turks had already retreated inland. Soon after the Australians reached Plugges Plateau.
The second six companies started landing in the dark and under heavy fire. Many were killed before they were able to disembark their boats. This time the 12th Battalion landed across the beach front thereby extending the landing zone. The 2nd brigade landed between 5.30am – 7.00am with the reserve 1st Brigade coming in at between 9.00am and midday. By 11.00am most of the 3rd Brigade had either been killed or wounded and the line was barely being held by the remnants of the five heavily depleted companies from the 1st Brigade. The advance companies of the 1st New Zealand Brigade began coming ashore at 10.45am and heading toward what was called Baby700 – the hill in the Sari Bair range and a strategic vantage point. The Auckland Battalion landed at midday and reach Walkers Ridge before heading to what was known as Russell’s Top. At 12.30pm the two companies of the Canterbury Battalion were landed and were to support the Auckland soldiers.
By 4.00pm that day not one single piece of artillery had been landed as the ships were being used to evacuate the wounded from the field. Just after 4.30pm the Wellington Battalion came ashore followed by Otago a half hour later. The field of fire was a complete mess as planners had underestimated the Turkish resistance and the terrain – much of which was accessibly only by goat tracks. It would take until nearly 6pm before the 4th Australian Brigade would disembark as a defensive measure to reinforce the line of those Australians and New Zealanders.
By nightfall around 16,000 men had been landed with the ANZACs forming a beachhead.
Casualties on the first day of the battle were heavy with estimates often confusing amongst the chaos. Some estimate that between three and four hundred were killed on the first day with New Zealand Government’s Minister for Culture and Heritage putting that number at one if five of the New Zealanders killed and the Australian War Memorial stating 860 Australians were killed in the five days between April 25th and April 30th.
During the full campaign, which eventually ended in the evacuation of the full force from the war zone, 8,708 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders were killed. It is believed that more than 2,000 Turkish soldiers from the 27th and 57th Infantry Regiments were lost with the total number of Turkish casualties in the campaign being 87,000.
It was a harsh lesson in what would come to be the practice of war with many believing mistakes that were made by the leadership higher up took a heavy toll. The truth is that New Zealanders and Australians from the cities and small country towns were taken at a time that both countries were building their own identities and sense of nation-hood. Today, the events of the 25th of April, have added to that sense of nationhood for both New Zealand and Australia while not forgetting that for the Turks it was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of a new secular society that would completely transform that nation and its identity.
Trotsky once said that; “The end may justify the means as long there is something that justifies the end…..Where force is necessary, there it must be applied boldly, decisively and completely. But one must know the limitations of force; one must know when to blend force with a manoeuvre, a blow with an agreement.”
The image of mateship
An Australian soldier carries his wounded mate, Gallipoli, 1915: the scale of Anzac casualties gave rise to a new sense of national identity – and circumspection about the mother country. Photograph: IWM
It wasn't just the men...
Australian nurses aboard the S.S Mooltan in 1015 were instrumental in caring for the wounded and many saw first hand the horrific injuries suffered on the field. Australian sisters on board S.S Mooltan, 1915 [AW Savage, photo album, PXE 698, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]
Kiwis in the trenches
Life in the trenches was about as bad as it got. New Zealand suffered the greatest number of casualties per head of population in the campaign
The kiwis and the Australians lived side by side in often horrendous conditions - a far cry from today's wars. Food was rationed and many died from infections
Gaba Tepe, the spot where Australian soldiers landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915.
Kiwis at Chunuk Bair
Soldiers of the Wellington Mounted Rifles, in a trench on the night of August 6, 1915, in preparation for the attack on Chunuk Bair. Photograph taken by James Cornelius Read.
Corporal Cyril Bassett, NZ Divisional Signals, 1NZEF: Cyril Bassett was the first New Zealand serviceman to win a VC during the First World War. He did so for distinguished conduct during the August 1915 offensive at Gallipoli. During the ferocious battle for Chunuk Bair, he and a handful of companions laid and repaired a telephone wire to the front line in full daylight and under heavy fire. Bassett’s decoration was the only VC awarded to a 1NZEF soldier during the Gallipoli campaign.
Date of action: 7 August 1915 (Gallipoli, Turkey)
Date of award: 15 October 1915
Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone (1859-1915) outside his bivouac on Walker's Ridge. Malone, a Stratford farmer and lawyer, commanded the Wellington Battalion at Gallipoli.
Alexander Burton From Victoria, Australia: On 9 August 1915, Burton fought in the Battle of Lone Pine when his company reinforced newly captured Turkish trenches. Burton was one of a party of men that manned a barricade against attacking Turkish soldiers. Killed in this action, he was recommended by his battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pompey Elliott, for the award of the Victoria Cross (VC)
Alfred Shout, Wellington New Zealand: was a New Zealand-born Australian soldier and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" awarded to members of the British andCommonwealth armed forces. In 1915, he was awarded the Military Cross during the landing at Anzac Cove in April and received the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions during the Battle of Lone Pine in August.
Federick Tubb from Longwood Australia: He was awarded the VC for his actions on 9 August 1915 at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. Lieutenant Tubb held a newly captured trench which was being counter-attacked by the enemy, who blew in a sand-bag barricade, leaving only a foot of it standing. Tubb led his men back, repulsed the enemy and rebuilt the barricade.
Hugo Throssell from Northham, WA, Australia: "On 29–30 August 1915 at Kaiakij Aghala (Hill 60), Gallipoli, Turkey, Second Lieutenant Throssell, although severely wounded in several places, refused to leave his post during a counter-attack or to obtain medical assistance until all danger was passed, when he had his wounds dressed and returned to the firing line until ordered out of action by the Medical Officer.
The Allies planned to land and secure the northern shore, capturing the Ottoman forts and artillery batteries there so that a naval force could advance through the Narrows and the Sea of Marmara towards Constantinople. Scheduled for 23 April but postponed until 25 April due to bad weather,landings were to be made at six beaches on the peninsula. The 29th Division was to land at Helles on the tip of the peninsula and then advance upon the forts at Kilitbahir. The Anzacs, with the 3rd Infantry Brigadespearheading the assault, were to land north of Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast, from where they could advance across the peninsula, cutting off the Ottoman troops in Kilitbahir. The small cove in and around which they landed became known as "Anzac Cove". This sector of the Gallipoli Peninsula became known as "Anzac"; the area held by the British and French became known as the "Helles sector" or simply "Helles". The French made a diversionary landing at Kum Kale on the Asian shore, before re-embarking to hold the eastern area of the Helles sector. There was a diversion by the Royal Naval Division, including a solo effort by New Zealander Bernard Freyberg at Bulair, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
The Helles landing was made by the 29th Division, under the command of Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. The division landed on five beaches in an arc about the tip of the peninsula, named from east to west as 'S', 'V', 'W', 'X' and 'Y' Beaches.On 1 May, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade (including the 1/6th Gurkha Rifles) landed, took and secured Sari Bair above the landing beaches, and were later joined by two other Gurkha battalions, the 1st/5th and the 2nd/10th;the Zion Mule Corps landed at Helles on 27 April. At 'Y' Beach, during the first engagement around the village of Krithia (First Battle of Krithia), the Allies were able to land unopposed and advance inland.There were only a small number of defenders in the village, but lacking orders to exploit the position, the 'Y' Beach commander withdrew his force to the beach. It was as close as they came to capturing the village throughout the rest of the campaign as the Ottomans brought up a battalion of the 25th Regiment, checking any further movement.
The main landings were made at 'V' Beach, beneath the old Seddülbahir fortress and at 'W' Beach, a short distance to the west on the other side of the Helles headland. The covering force from the Royal Munster Fusiliers and Hampshires landed from a converted collier, SS River Clyde, which was run aground beneath the fortress so that the troops could disembark via ramps to the shore. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers landed at 'V' Beach from open boats. At 'W' Beach, the Lancashire Fusiliers also landed in open boats, on a shore overlooked by dunes and obstructed with barbed wire. On both beaches the Ottoman defenders occupied good defensive positions and inflicted many casualties on the British infantry as they landed. Troops emerging one-by-one from sally ports on the River Clyde were shot by machine-gunners at the Seddülbahir fort. Of the first 200 soldiers to disembark, only 21 men reached the beach.