The ANZACS

By the Defence Act of 1903-1911 all Australian boys were required to serve in the Australian Defence Forces: those aged between 12 and 14 were junior cadets; older boys between 14 and 18 were seniors. In August 1915, as the casualty lists of World War I grew, compulsory cadet training was suspended. (p12,16)

World War I was declared 5-Aug-1914 (4-Aug in London). On the 8-Aug-1914 the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was formed - a special force created to sail to war in six weeks. The Army requirements were for men aged between 19 and 34, 5’6” or over with a 34” chest expansion or greater. Colour patches were stitched beneath the shoulder line of the coat, the upper colour representing the battalion, the lower the brigade. These emblems were Australia’s nearest equivalent to heraldic devices and were worn with pride, honour and esteem. (p22,26,28)

In Nov-1914 England declared war on Turkey.

The Dardanelles is a narrow forty-mile strait linking the north-east corner of the Aegean to the Sea of Marmora and from Homeric times has been celebrated as a theatre of war. Near the entrance on the Asiatic shore stand the remains of Troy. (p77) Mudros is the harbour of Lemnos Island, the birthplace of the Iliad. On the island’s peaks Agammemnon, King of Mycenae, had lit a chain of fires to signal Clytaemnestra, his queen, that he had taken nearby Troy.

Australian medics set up at Mena House Hospital at the foot of the pyramids near Cairo and the troops spent several months there in training camps. (p60)

During Feb-1915 and Mar-1915 British and French warships bombarded the forts in the Narrows at the entrance to the Dardanelles in an unsuccessful attempt to force a passage of the Dardanelles to open sea communications with Russia. The decision was made to send a military expedition under General Sir Ian Hamilton and on 24-Apr-1915 the first troops landed at the western entrance to the Dardanelles. Carrying munitions, guns, entrenching tools, sandbags, provisions, clothing, medical stores, hospital equipment, mules, horses, fodder and drinking water the troops landed and climbed the steep, scub-covered hillside. One of them afterwards said “The swearing that went on, as well as the jokes, was marvellous”. At the end of the first day 16000 men had been put ashore, 2,000 had been killed. The British had landed at Cape Helles and fared no better than the men at Anzac Cove.

The fighting was to continue for eight months and in May-1915 the Light Horse left their horses in Egypt and continued on as infantry. Their landing coincided with the strongest Turk offensive and while the ANZACs held their ground the losses on both sides were great. On 24-May-1915 a ‘Suspension of Arms’ was called to allow burial of the dead. A line was pegged down the centre of No Man’s Land and the Turks and Anzacs buried bodies on their own side on the line. It was impossible to identify all bodies, as many Anzacs were lying on the Turkish side of the demarcation line. It is thought that these were later listed by a Court of Inquiry as ‘Missing, believed killed’. (p78,87,91,94,100,101,102)

In August Lone Pine was attacked and taken amidst constant, intense bomb-fighting. Where possible the wounded were collected but the dead were left where they fell on exposed ground which made it impossible to record the details of the identification tags. (p115,118) 

The ANZAC ‘demonstration’, or ‘feint’ was carried out to draw Turkish troops away from a British landing being made at Suvla Bay, flat saltlake country to the north of Anzac Cove. With the three British divisions was a group of Australians known as the ‘Dry Land Sailors’, part of the unique Naval Bridging Train, a group formed from all states to build piers and construct bridges. They set off for the Dardanelles on 16-Jun-1915, spent a few days in Lemnos and then sailed for the August landing. [?minus Clive, who stayed in Mudros with influenza and rejoined them 21-Jun-1915]. The British were inexperienced and many officers were picked off by snipers almost as soon as they landed, leaving sergeants to lead the men into action. (p120)

7-Aug-1915. Disastrous attack on Hill 971. (15th Battalion). Private W. Percival (NSW), 15th Battalion, said “Of the whole of those good comrades who were with me I can honestly say that these lads performed deeds of heroism and utterly fearless bravery sufficient to wattant the issue all round of VCs, but nobody of high enough military rank saw them. We, their mates, saw it all.” (p122)

The war-cry was ‘Imshee Allah!’, picked up from the months spent at training camps in Egypt. (p99)

 

[sources: "The ANZACS", Patsy Adam-Smith, 1978,
"The 25 Pounders ... from Egypt to Borneo, An Anecdotal History" by John Warby, 1995]


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