This Is Why We Stand: Anzac Day 2017
I have always believed that we must recognize the sacrifices of others who have shared in our efforts and struggles to build a better world. Today is Anzac Day, a day for those in Australia and New Zealand to remember the individuals who fought and died in the service of their country. Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. From the harrowing beaches of Gallipoli in the First World War, to the jungles of the Pacific during World War II, the Anzac name has always been associated with unyielding courage and bravery on the battlefield. Today our friends and allies utter a common phrase throughout their land, lest we forget. On this day, as we always should, we say it with them. Lest we forget.
Anzac Day was originally intended to mark the anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign that began on April 25, 1915 during the First World War. The ambitious campaign to capture the Gallipoli peninsula would hinge on the efforts of many, but perhaps none as fondly remembered as those of the Anzac forces. Planners believed that by capturing the peninsula, they could secure safe passage for allied navies and provide relief to their battered Russian allies to the East. At the time of the battle, Australia had only been recognized as a federal commonwealth of Great Britain for 13 years. New Zealand had been named a dominion of England just eight years earlier. Because of this connection to the United Kingdom, there was no shortage of Anzac volunteers ready to fight on the allies side.
Men of the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance practice boat drills in preparation for the landings at Gallipoli. (Photo: gallipoli.gov.au)
Some historians would argue that the Gallipoli campaign was doomed to fail from the beginning. Before D-Day nearly 29 years later, this was undoubtedly the most ambitious amphibious landing to take place. From the moment that the Anzac’s hit the beaches, they were greeted with constant fire from the well positioned Ottoman forces. As so much of World War I would come to be defined by, eight months of stalemate ensued at Gallipoli. By the end of 1915, the Allies evacuated their forces from the peninsula. Over 8,000 Australians and around 2779 troops from New Zealand lost their lives during the campaign.
An Australian soldier carries his wounded comrade. (Photo: Anzac.com)
Militarily, Gallipoli was a sound defeat, but in spite of that, the legend of the Anzac's was born. In their first taste of large scale battle and operations, Anzac soldiers tenaciously fought for every inch of ground. Like the American Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross is the highest honor that can be earned in service of the United Kingdom and its commonwealth countries and territories. According to Military History Now, over 60 VC’s were awarded to Australians during the First World War. Nine of them went to veterans of the Gallipoli campaign.
Australian soldiers at Anzac Cove on the day of the Gallipoli landing. (Photo: gallipoli.gov.au)
Jacqueline Wadsworth published a book titled, “Letters from the Trenches: The First World War by Those Who Were There.” The book mentions Private Ernie Hough, who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on August 18, 1914. He was present during the Gallipoli campaign. In a letter to his parents, Hough encapsulated the unwavering spirit of his countrymen, “Our boys simply mow the Turks down when they get on the job. I have seen Turkish dead in the trenches four and five deep, and I know the majority of Turks do not want this war to last longer.” The war wouldn’t end until November of 1918, but through it all, the Anzac name came to hold a profound significance on the battlefield. Hough would also add, “My word, our chaps are savage when they are fighting.”
Australian soldiers enact a charge for a photographer. (Photo: therecord.com.au)
It is estimated that more than 60,000 Australians and around 18,000 New Zealanders lost their lives during the First World War. Anzac forces continued to stand and fight in the next set of conflicts that would come to shape our world. As an American, I join the people of Australia and New Zealand in their day of remembrance. Lest we forget. This is why we stand.