This year brings us to more than 100 years since World War I and the beginning of the legend of the Anzacs. As the years draw on, each Anzac Day becomes more important than the last, as we honour the memory of their sacrifice and imagine a future without their service.
Australia has come a long way since 1915 yet Anzac day continues to mean a great deal to many people, both in Turkey and Australia.
For many, Anzac Day is defined as Australia’s first great test, where it emerged weary but triumphant, emancipated from British rule. For others, it serves as an inspiration, to continue to serve and preserve the legacy of the past. Over 100 years on also marks an important milestone of recognition and appreciation of Indigenous soldiers and as well as women in the forces.
Looking back at the battle that has since defined an era of war for Australia and Turkey it’s fascinating to examine the feats of ingenuity that arose out of the times of greatest pressure, separate the fact from the fiction and remember the human faces of this momentous time in history.
The Ruses of Escape
Following the defeat at Anzac Cove, the army was required to execute one of the most daring and dangerous evacuations seen during the war; removing nearly 80,000 men over a few weeks under the thin cover of moonlight. The Turkish and Australian trenches were only a few feet apart, rendering any sound or movement a dead giveaway- literally. The Australian forces had to give the appearance that they were still manning their trenches while actually slipping away.
The army had to think on their feet to avoid being detected. One of the most famous cases of battlefield invention came from Lance Corporal William Scurry who created the ‘drip’ or ‘pop-off’ rifle. Securing two kerosene cans, Scully filled one with water and made a hole, allowing liquid to drip into the other. Once the empty tin began to fill, the weight of the water pulled a string, attached to the rifles trigger, allowing it go off.
For a Turkish soldier peering over the edge of a trench, an unmanned rifle looked no different from a manned one once that bullet flew over! The troops also stationed mannequins along the ridges and wrapped their feet in blankets to silence their movements as they snuck away.
Despite these clever methods it’s also true that the Turkish troops probably noticed the thinning numbers but knew an Australian surrender suited them well. War is long and hard and the famous commander Ataturk risked either huge casualties if he attacked too soon or criticism if he let the enemy get away.
When one Australian soldier returned to Gallipoli in 1919, He spoke with a Turkish officer who said in regards to the surrender, “No-one regretted that we had let you get away.”
Separating myth from reality
There are a few myths about Anzac Day that continue to exist despite historian’s best efforts. The Anzacs did land in the right place! An unfortunate misquote of a naval officer led many to believe for years there was a mistake, but the landings, including intended fake ones, went to plan.
Secondly, the movie Gallipoli may have leaned a little too hard on the ‘bumbling British’ myth. It was actually confusion from the Australian military leaders about where to dig the first ridge, and the difficulty in navigating the country that led to the flawed campaign.
Finally, the Anzac biscuit was not created at Gallipoli! Mothers who wanted to send a gift to their sons baked the sweet, hard biscuits that wouldn’t spoil. Both Australia and New Zealand claim to have invented the Anzac but the jury is still out on the truth of that mystery!
Closer to home
World War 1 drew recruits from all over Australia and a large number came from Ipswich. By 1915 men were sending letters home to Ipswich from Gallipoli and Egypt and bringing home the reality of the war. The reaction on the home front was a swell of love and support for those far away. The community gathered together to raise funds, knit bandages, socks and clothes and a general feeling of togetherness was displayed as flags began to appear in shops.
A walk from Warwick to Brisbane was organised, designed to recruit new soldiers and promote the cause. The marchers were met with bands and parades in each town and as they changed into dungarees along the way, earned themselves the name ‘Binnie’s Dungarees’ after their leader Lieutenant Binnie. They were met by the Ipswich Ladies Patriotic Committee in Ipswich and presented with a drum.
When war finally ended and Armistice was signed, Ipswich celebrated. Bells rang out, bands played in Queens Park and a public holiday was declared.
Lists of those deceased in the war as well as comprehensive archives can be found at the Ipswich Library.
Anzac Day continues to be an important part of the Australian identity and a special day to reflect on all the history it holds. If you would like to spend time and remember, there are several services being held around Brisbane and Ipswich, which you can find in this issue.