ANZAC Day: What we remember for

One hundred and two days, on this very day, the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign started with an audacious assault of the Ottoman empire, starting from the aim of capturing the Gallipoli Peninsula. The initial invasion included two fresh divisions of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) incredibly difficult conditions and a well prepared Turkish defence. This would be the foundation of the commemoration that occurs on a yearly basis nowadays, recognising the important sacrifices made by such soldiers for Australia and New Zealand.

Anzac Cove after landings, 1915 (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The landing on Anzac Cove in the early morning of the 25th April 1915 was the first step of the Dardanelles operation that looked to break to existing deadlock in the conflict. However, from the initial developments of the planned assault, there were critical issues that arose. The boats carrying the first, main forces (comprised of an Australian and New Zealand division, including over 16000 men) did not follow the original plan, with them landing a kilometre north of the designated region of Gaba Tepe and arriving in a very narrow fashion, leaving regrouping to be a difficult task. Turkish defences were very well prepared, taking the assaulting soldiers off guard, even prior to their landing, as bullets were fired off towards them, even when they were off-shore. This caused great disorientation, with some men dying before reaching the shore, while those surviving, reached the shore, soaking wet. To worsen this initial disorientation, the terrain that they faced was challenging, most notably with Plugge’s Plateau, a difficult climb that was only made worse by the continuing Turkish fire that they faced. Even as the Australian soldiers reached the top, they continued to face a fierce opposition, but despite the challenging conditions, by the end of the day, they managed to consolidate and take control a small part of the peninsula (2 kilometres long – from their arrival area at Anzac Cove).

The initial planned assault along the coatsline by the first wave landings (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The struggle of the ANZACs continued, and with the no evacuation plan being executed, they were left stranded, and fought bravely and desperately for their survival. Over several months, neither the ANZAC forces or the Turkish forces could succeed in achieving a breakthrough, and it was only until mid-November 1915, when the surviving ANZAC forces would be evacuated. Both sides suffered a similar level of casualties through this period, with 2000 either killed or wounded on both sides. Even with the disastrous campaign, it was historically symbolic of the ANZAC legend that was to be created from the recognition of their importance in the national histories of Australia and New Zealand.

The commemoration nowadays extends beyond the original involvement in WWI, and includes the recognition of the efforts of Australian and New Zealander soldiers in other major conflicts, including WWII, the Vietnam War and the more recent Iraq War. Whether such involvement was truly necessary in some of these conflicts can be questioned, there is no doubt that there should be appreciation for the efforts of each of these individual soldiers.


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