The Anzac Legend

Australia fed 331,781 young men into the World War I mincer of France, Belgium, Gallipoli and the Middle East. Almost 60,000 never came home. Of those who did, 213,000 returned wounded, either in body or mind. Another 85,000 Australians enlisted but did not serve overseas. In a nation of just 4 million, 416,809 of its men - all volunteers - were in uniform at some time during the years 1914-18.

Shameful history of a desecration, SMH, 16 April 2005

The Historial's mobilisation figure for Australia is 413,000, although 313,814 embarked. It rounds off the [WW1] dead to 60,000, for a percentage of 14.5. Australia's estimated population in 1914 was 4.97 million. Extrapolated to today's population, the nation would lose 240,000 citizens.

Blood, guts and the stuff of legend, SMH, 24 June 2005

The British troops were suffering from 'an atrophy of mind and body that is appalling... The physique of those at Suvla is not to be compared with the Australians. Nor, indeed, is their intelligence... They are merely a lot of childlike youths without strength to endure or brains to improve their condition... After the first day at Suvla an order had to be issued to officers to shoot without mercy any soldiers who lagged behind or loitered in an advance... [By contrast] It is stirring to see them [the Australians].. they have the noble faces of men who have endured. Oh, if you could picture Anzac as I have seen it, you would find that to be an Australian is the greatest privilege the world has to offer' 

Phillip Knightley quoting Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert, who wrote from Gallipoli in 1915.
 Australia: A Biography of a Nation, 2000

It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian

Prime Minister John Howard, on the death of the last Anzac, Alec Cambell, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002

"Gallipoli was a bastard of a place," he said. "I never understood what we were fighting for. All I could think of was that I never wanted to go back to the bloody place."

Albert White, aged 100, Brisbane, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002

Government Enterprises Minister, Dr Armitage, said the State Government had no intention of expanding trading hours, particularly to days of religious significance. "There are certain sacrosanct days that should not be contemplated for shopping ... and I believe that includes opening early on Anzac Day," Dr Armitage said.

Anzac Shop War, Sunday Mail, 9 January 2000

We do not glorify war on Anzac Day. Far from it. We remember the dreadful loss of lives in the many gallant battles fought by those brave young men who stepped forward when called upon to serve their country. Nor are we agressive, but we believe in showing the future enemy that we are so determined to defend our shores that he should think twice before taking on the Sons of Anzac!

Sir Colin Hines, President, R.S.L. (NSW) 1977

Australian soldiers have always achieved successed out of all proportion to their numbers. It is just that these great victories were overlooked at the time and then later obscured by military historians. 

Peter Firkins, The Australians in Nine Wars: Waikato to Long Tan. 

At pubs across the country, war veterans are proving Anzac Day is not just about ceremony.  Sharing memories with mates over a schooner or two is just as important to those who fought for our country.

Memories over a schooner, Sydney Morning Herald, Anzac Day 2002

Today is about compassion, about endurance against overwhelming odds, about mateship, it is about a 'fair go' - these are the values that were lived by our Anzacs and our Aussie boys on the Western Front and at Gallipoli

NSW Veterans Affairs Minister Danna Vale, Sydney Morning Herald, Anzac Day 2002

The Australian soldier of legend was enterprising and independent, loyal, bold, egalitarian, cheerfully undisciplined and contemptuous of the class of British officers.

Blood, guts and the stuff of legend, SMH, 24 June 2005

The West Australians assumed that death was certain, and each in the secret places of his mind debated how he would go to it. Mate, having said goodbye to mate ... went forward to meet death instantly, running as straight and swiftly as they could at the Turkish rifles. With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia ...

War Historian C. Bean who was stationed at Gallipoli during WW1

It was the birth of a nation, and one can only hope that this thought provided some comfort to the parents of the Anzac whose very Australian headstone stands where the first landing took place. It reads:

Died aged 18 near this spot
April 25, 1915
Did his best.

Phillip Knightley, Australia: A Biography of a Nation, 2000

Without naming Japan, Mr Howard said 20,000 Australians were captured in the space of a few weeks in 1942 - a reference to the sweep through South-East Asia by Japanese forces that culminated in the fall of Singapore in February of that year. The Australians "passed into captivity only to endure years of forced labour, starvation and brutality at the hands of a cruel enemy. Our prisoners of war came face to face with barbarity of a kind that younger generations can scarcely imagine. It was Australian soldiers on Papua (New Guinea) who checked and turned back a Japanese army that till then had known only victory. Australia, which had a population of just seven million in 1939, had "put a million men and women in uniform", Mr Howard said.

PM remembers 'cruel enemy', SMH, 15 August 2005

Former PoW Cyril Gilbert, secretary of the Ex-Prisoners Of War Association of Australia, condemned the Government's decision. "I would rather [the Japanese] get bloody shot, the lot of them. I wouldn't go and safeguard those Japanese murderers for all the rice in China," he said. "During World War II they murdered our chaps. They put them in huts and they set fire to the huts and those who couldn't get out were burnt alive and those that did get out were just shot and emptied into mass graves."

Are we now ready to forgive the Japanese, Daily Telegraph, 24 Feb 2005

You the mothers, who sent your sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace ...

Mustafa Ataturk, 1934

Mr Casserly, who transported troops and ammunition at Ypres, Armentieres and Amiens, can never shake the memory of carting young soldiers off to certain death. "They had no idea of how terrible it was," he said. "I used to look at their young faces and think of their mothers. "Next day most of them would just be blood and bandages. "Wherever you looked there would be these poor buggers on the side of the road, all wanting cigarettes, all busted up, some with arms and legs gone."

Last WWI digger dies, aged 107, SMH 24 June 2005

The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend. That is surely at the heart of the Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity.

Funeral Service Of The Unknown Australian Soldier, Prime Minister Keating, November 11, 1993

Many surviving diggers are concerned families could eventually take over the occasion. Rats of Tobruk Association president Joe Madeley said it destroyed the meaning of Anzac to have children and non-veterans marching in the column. And Terry McGuire, 82, secretary of the 26th Infantry Brigade Association, slammed the "carnival atmosphere" growing during Anzac Day marches. "It is a dignified march in memory of the fallen and I feel it is disrespectful to have kids running around cheering," he said. Norm Stockdale, secretary of the 39th Battalion Association, said too many families joining in would change the nature of the event. "We restrict it to one family member per veteran but it is in danger of becoming an American style celebratory parade," he said. He said: "Anzac Day is a solemn occasion. Anzac is all about those who went to war and came back. We march to honour those who didn't come back. "Many youngsters who join the parade just want to get on TV and wave and carry on."

Marching against the tide, Sydney Morning Herald, April 9 2006

Earlier, his voice had choked on the telephone as he remembered the war. ''I get very emotional when I think of my mates. There is not one of my close mates I enlisted with alive today. The Japanese were not human. Animals would not do what they did.'

POW chief a prisoner of his own lies, Sydney Morning Herald, October 3 2009

A digger is an Australian solider, typically from WWI and WW2. They are revered, and, in many ways, epitomise the real Australian culture that is perhaps dying with them. This reverence, very much alive in our children, is the closest thing most Australians have to a religion. We don't believe in God, but we respect our diggers like Gods. And with good reason.  

Although not well known around the world (many would not even know Australia was involved), those diggers have given more than their fair share during both World Wars - especially as they had to travel half the world to give it, and they gave it for people who would be unlikely to return the favour. The truth is that Australia has the highest casualty rate in the world, during WW1. That's right. In the world. And all of our boys were volunteers. We volunteered to be slaughtered at a higher rate than any other: 70%, 70%! of our boys were either wounded, killed or lost. Every family was affected, from every town, and that can be seen in memorials all over the country.  Someone died from every second family. Think about that.  

In all, 100,000 Aussies were killed in wars during the 20th Century. 100,000 dinkum Aussies, who were more Australian than the current generation can imagine.

The following is a poem in their honour.

Diggers Lament

It was with great sadness, that we saw
a dusty old digger, turned from the door
for a century he and his mates had drunk
and laughed and cried, and lived through war

But now it seems, he is not the right class
No suit, no tie, no belt of brass
To him it was all a tragic mystery
Who were these Australians, who had forgotten their own history?

Somewhat in shock, we skulled our beers
and rushed to join, our aging peer
hey cobber, we yelled, knowing his tounge
he turned and stared, eyeing us one by one

We built this bloody country, said he
with our bloody hands
we spilt our blood, we gave our youth
and this is the thanks we have

In our day the pub was for one and all
a place for laugh and cheer
at the very least, an honest bloke
could find an honest beer

Now noone wants to know us
they throw us on the street
sometimes I wonder why we bothered
getting butchered, like raw meat

the fair dinkums we were known as
as we fought the war of hate
but most of all, we aussie blokes
fought for one another - as good mates

Now I look around at Sydney
Well, it just ain't the same
the crowds - they aren't my people
what they are is just a shame

they shove, they push, they toot their horns
they speak american if you're lucky
the dinkum aussies, my cobbers and I
we're disappearing in a hurry

there's no shouting, mateship or blokeyness
and 'bloody oath' is considered crude
they think they are all winners
I just think they're bloody rude

they carry on, throughout their lives
chasing the almighty zac
but they know no joy, they have no mates
they'll die alone - for moneys sake

and what's worse, he sighed, is not here and now
but where we're going to be
and I ask myself, as I slowly die
what happened to my country.

David Downie, 2000

NOTE: This poem may be reproduced so long as the author's name and date remains intact. Please let us know if you do reproduce it.


Australian historian and journalist Bill Sellars, who first revealed that bones had been disturbed, said last night visitors were "stopping in their tracks" when they saw the new roadwork and carpark construction. "They just stand there and say, 'What the hell?" Mr Sellars said. "Anzac Cove is gone. "Before (the roadworks constructed by the Turks) you could stand on the road above Anzac Cove and look up into the hills and you would have the same view as Australian and New Zealand soldiers would have had on April 25, 1915. "Now, it's no longer physically possible to step off the beach and follow the path of the first Australians who landed. It's deeply upsetting, and it's upsetting for many people."

Tourist anger over road works, Sydney Morning Herald, April 20 2005


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