Anzac Day

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Today is Anzac Day.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

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.

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.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle.

Best wishes to all our readers in Australia and New Zealand, and particularly to Don the Kiwi, for a happy Anzac Day from American Catholic!

They shall grow not old, as we that are left 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.

Laurence Binyon

9 Responses to Anzac Day

  • Don the Kiwi says:

    Thank you Don, for your wishes. I am rather humbled,flattered and honoured to be singled out.

    Loved your poem – I had not heard it before, but is very appropriate, and very Kiwi/Aussie. There are many other songs I could quote of course, but not printable on this blog – as I’m sure anyone attached with the military, and of that time, can attest. (If anyone is unsure what a “bob” is, it is the slang term for a shilling – nowadays, 10 cents.) Interestingly, wages had not gone up much, for by WW2, my Dad was being paid only ten bob per day. As Rommell said of the Aussie and Kiwi troops, “Pay them another ten shillings per day, and they’ll drink themselves out of the war.”

    Anyhow, we really kicked his arse at the battle of El Alemein in the Western Desert – he should have put up the extra ten bob. :-)
    No small part of that was the Long Range Desert Group (LRGD) a bunch of mainly Kiwis, with a few Aussies and Poms thrown in, who harassed the German and Italian forces, hundreds of miles behind the enmy lines. A high death toll though; my father knew a couple of the guys involved.

    Back to Gallipoli, my maternal Grandfather, and mum’s uncle both served on Gallipoli.Grt.Uncle Eustace Nicholson was a Sergent Major – a big man, and a real feisty old bugger, who was a boxing champion on the Western Front after surviving Gallipoli. Pop Piper (Mum’s father) was a Cornishman – came to NZ about 1910, and was told that because he was from Cornwall, he could be a Tunneller. He used to keep us spellbound when we were kids, about how he could hear “the Turk” above him – that’s when they’d stack up explosives and get out quick before the ka-boom. Pop Piper was wounded, but went to England to assist with training etc. – joined the army as a private, came out a Second Lieutenant.
    Dad’s oldest brother also saw service in the trenches in France and Belgium. He got gassed, and when he recovered back in NZ, played Rugby for a Rotorua club for the next ten years. He was a real character – always had a twinkle in his eye, especially for the ladies. After his gassing, he was returned to NZ to a convalescent home. Only there for three days, and seduced the matron :lol: not bad for still recovering,and with only one lung.

    Dad served in Italy in WW2 – just missed Casino where the Kiwis suffered a bit of a clean up – but saw action in Faenza and Rimini in ’44. Came home on a hospital ship with a bad back injury – was used a a guinnea pig for spinal operations and took 18 months to recover. Managed the pain till his death in 2005 at age 93. Had many relations as well in WW2 – a mad Irish stock uncle – Joe Murphy by name – navigator in Lancasters – got shot down and captured, escaped, rejoined his squadron, got shot down again and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

    Anyway, enough from me. Thanks foe the ANZAC post Don, and God Bless.

  • Don the Kiwi says:

    Oh, BTW.
    I read the links you have included.
    The third one – “The best kind of Travel experience” if you check out the left hand link about the Bay of Plenty, that’s my home town – Tauranga.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Don! I hadn’t heard of the Rommel comment before, but it sounds like the type of dry observation that Rommel would often make. Courage is a virtue too underrated today; the Anzacs had that virtue in plenty and that deserves to be remembered, and not just in New Zealand and Australia. For the benefit of our readers I am linking below to a site with a few basic facts about Tauranga.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tauranga

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Gallipoli.

    If only Mr. Churchill planned it out better the outcome would have been different.

    We would have been able to march to Constantinople, free the city of Muslim rule and allow the Greeks to worship without fear.

    Now they’re almost wiped out.

    What could have been.

    *sigh*

  • Don the Kiwi says:

    Tito.
    It was mainly the blinding incompetence of the British command that was the main problem: procrastinated decisions,watering down objectives and failing to sieze initiatives.
    But lets not discount the fierce Turkish resistance either.
    The Aussies had the sense to take their troops out of British control after Gallipoli. In the campaign in Europe when the Aussies refused an order from General Haig, Haig threatened to execute them all for mutiny- The Aussie commanders told Haig that he could not put a volunteer army before the firing squad. Haig had to back down.
    The NZ troops were still under British command. Five NZ soldiers were infamously executed for desertion, but the poor devils were so shell shocked they didn’t know what they were doing. So much for the British stiff upper lip and absentee commanders.
    All a long time ago now.

    Have we learnt anything?

  • tryptic67 says:

    I remember reading that “we are the Anzac army’ was a marching song, sung to the tune of Aurelia (which to those unfamiliar with that name, is same tune as the famous anglican hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”)

    It’s easy to blame Gallipoli on WC, and it all but ruined his political career for a generation, but the whole British administration backed the plan … Kichener, Fisher, Asquith … that is, until they didn’t or got cold feet.

    Too many Anzacs …and Britsh … soldiers and sailors paid with their lives for inept combined tactics. W.C., however, was not responsible for Kichner’s unwillingness to combine landings with the naval assault on the Narrows, nor for the Navy’s unwillingness to press the battleship attack against the Narrows batteries when victory was at hand, nor the abysmal British generalship when the landings finally did take place – particularly at Sulva Bay.

    Sic transit mundi.

    Had it worked, the Ottoman Empire would have been out of the war … and likely no Bolshevik revolution, no Arabian revolt, and, perhaps, no World War 2. Who knows. The sacrifice of those who died on that terrible peninsula, who were maimed or wounded, though, is honored by all who admire duty, loyalty and courage. May the rest in peace and honor.

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