ANZAC is an acronym which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
The ANZACs were the men (and women) from Australia and New Zealand who served, fought and died on the battlefields of World War One (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945).
To Australians, the most important fighting was at Gallipoli, a disastrous beach landing against Turkish troops who were well dug in and who fought back well, finally beating off their invaders.
Rather than becoming lifelong enemies, there are many accounts where Turkish troops threw cigarettes from their trenches to the Australians, and the ANZACs threw cans of bully beef (corned beef) back to the Turks in exchange.
The ANZACs lost the battle at Gallipoli, but the tragic campaign is regarded as a “coming of age” time for Australia. That was when Australians themselves and the rest of the world started to recognise Australia as a country, rather than just part of the British Empire. It also marks where Turkey changed and became a modern, progressive country.
In 2004 I saw a Turkish documentary on TV about Gallipoli, and it was surprisingly generous in what it said about the ANZACs who fought there… particularly when you remember we had invaded their country to fight for Mother England. The Turks have said, “Do not grieve for your sons for they lie at peace now, with our sons”. And many Aussies make the pilgimage every April to go to Anzac Cove and see where so many young soldiers sacrificed their lives in an utterly hopeless military campaign.
Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and even Indians, Pakistanis and other British Colonial forces all fought alongside British troops at Gallipoli, and also in the trenches of France and Belgium during World War One.
The casualties caused through trench warfare were astronomical, as military tactics had not yet adapted to the efficient killing power of the new technology of that time.
The generals stupidly sent men with rifles and bayonets against entrenched machine-guns. While artillery barrages reduced complete towns, trenches – and the soldiers in them – into an unrecognisable ‘moonscape’ of mud and blood, rotting flesh, bones and bomb craters.
And a new terror weapon of the time, poison gas, killed and blinded untold thousands of unprepared soldiers and left the survivors wrecked mentally and physically for the rest of their lives.
In World War II, the ANZACs fought against the Japanese in the Pacific, particularly in Papua New Guinea, and they also fought against the Germans and Italians in North Africa and Europe.
Many ANZACs were in Singapore when the British surrendered to the invading Japanese in World War 2. The result was that thousands of Australians as well as British, Indian and Pakistani Commonwealth soldiers and local civilians died from overwork, malnutrition and disease from working as forced slave labor in the appalling Japanese P.O.W. camps in Thailand and Burma.
ANZAC Day is celebrated every April 25th, with dawn parades and memorial services where wreaths and flowers are laid at cemeteries and war memorials in cities and towns right across Australia and New Zealand.
|“They shall not grow old as we who are left behind grow old.
“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn…
“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
“We will remember them.”
This video (The band played Waltzing Matilda), shows historical photographs and film from World War 1 and the Gallipoli landings at Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay. It is pretty heartbreaking stuff, where eager young men went into battle thinking it was going to be fun for them to give the enemy a hiding. Instead we were forced to withdraw. Yet many see this as the first time Australians thought of themselves as Australian, rather than as British subjects. The tune Waltzing Matilda used to be Australia’s national anthem, and is still our favourite patriotic song. It was also recognised all over the world as the Australian anthem, even though it has now been replaced.