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The Legacy of ANZAC
Anzac Day on the 25th April is the day Australians and New Zealanders pause to remember the first major military action that was fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. This anniversary has become the one day in the year that Australians recognize the dedication and sacrifice that Australians have made all of the modern theatres of war since 1900.
In 1915, Australia had only been a Federated Commonwealth for 13 years and the politicians of the day were keen for Australia to stand shoulder to shoulder and equally amongst the rest of the British Commonwealth allies in times of war.
At the beginning of 1915, the German armies were moving towards the west at great speed and Winston Churchill, Commonwealth allies and the British parliament decided to attack on the Dardanelles peninsular, against the Turkish army as a distraction to Germany and in the hope that Germany would be forced to split their war power between two different war fronts.
A number of different efforts were made to land on this peninsular by the Allies, but failed due to the tenacity of the Turkish army and the extremely difficult terrain and very small beachheads. Even though the Turks were suffering in terrible conditions, and with little ammunition, they managed to stand their ground.
At 4:38am on the morning of 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces attempted to take the beach head at Gallipoli. Over 2000 men were killed on that first day, and this battle raged for another eight months. Neither side gave an inch and eventually it was realized that a stalemate had been reached.
Just before Christmas 1915, all Allied armies were withdrawn from the Dardanelle Peninsular. This eight month campaign cost the Allies 141,000 casualties; 8,709 Aussies and 2701 Kiwis were killed. The Turks suffered more than 86,000 deaths during this same campaign.
Once the First World War was over and with the benefit of hindsight, it has been agreed that this disastrous event was essential in the final outcome of the Allies winning the first war. An enormous amount of respect has been shown to the Turkish army, especially those who fought at Gallipoli. The leader of the Turkish nation, Ataturk was quoted as saying, after the devastation of Gallipoli:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
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