Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The 'Blooding' of the Australian Fighting Man

That time of year comes around when Nations celebrate and Remember their fallen soldiers, as so it does for Oz at the end of this week.  Every nation has its different day and its different ceremonies and its different myths. Ours is ANZAC  Day. The Australian & New Zealand Army Corps.

It was a mere 13 years after Australia became an Independent Commonwealth in 1901 that we threw in our lot with the forces of Honour and Righteousness. It was to combat an initially European political and Spiritual illness which had quickly spread to engulf most parts of the world.  World War One.  Amongst the enemies we confronted was the Ottoman Empire, and it was upon the shores of the Gallipoli penninsula in Turkey that Australia was 'blooded'.

Our soldiers did well.
They were heroic.

An enduring myth was created which unfortunately presaged the 'victimhood' sense we see all around us. We had rescued Honour from a resounding military disaster and defeat. But honour can so easily be sullied.

But by crikey, like many, we can spin a good yarn and sometimes diminish the real heroism by emphasising a 'poor me' attitude. As if the might of Germany and Turkey and all the rest were not enough, Australians seem to revel in calumnising Britain too ! 
We lost a lot of men for such a small population. They were the best of our youthfulness and vigour, and illustrated that 'larrikin' attitude that takes fun in adversity. A 'Boyishness', irreverend and a challenge to 'tall poppy' authority. The propensity by some to 'whine' in an adolescent way detracts from the mature, adult manner in which our men proved Australia's resolve. This is 'politically' encouraged from some quarters.

Australia can be proud of the reality without the myths.

Bill O'Chee dropped in for a swift few pints to give a view.
Anzac Day 2016: 
Time to end the Anzac myths
One-hundred-and-one years after the landings at Gallipoli, it is time the mythologising about Australia's role in the First World War ended.
Many of the things we have come to believe about Gallipoli - for example, that Australians bore the brunt of the casualties - are untrue. 
There is much of which we can be truly proud in the Anzac legacy. The desire to embellish history is unnecessary and unworthy.
Worse still, some of our misunderstandings are the result of the fevered jingoism of authors such as Peter FitzSimons.  A rollicking good yarn they might be, but a fair representation of history is another matter.
This is a shame, because there is much of which we can be truly proud in the Anzac legacy.  The sad desire to embellish history is unnecessary and unworthy.
More than 40,000 people gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance for the Brisbane Anzac Day dawn service last year. 
Hobart, too, has its dawn service, along with all other cities and towns. I do not attend. Although a Warrior and once a Uniformed Officer in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, I served not in the ANZACs. I respect them. I do not seek to bask in their glory.  I do attend Mass, however, in the Crypt. I pray for the souls of my comrades in arms.
Hobart's War Memorial.
That being so, here are five things worth considering about Anzac Day, and Australia's role in the First World War.
First, the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, which lent its name to ANZAC, was not composed of just Australians and New Zealanders.  In fact, it was a very multinational and multicultural force.  When the Australians and New Zealanders went ashore, they were accompanied by troops from the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, Jewish soldiers from the Zion Mule Corps, and Indian Mountain Brigade, who were all part of ANZAC.
Second, Queenslanders played a significant role in the Gallipoli campaign.  The most vital of the Allied positions was Quinn's Post, since it controlled Shrapnel Valley, and therefore the beach at Anzac Cove.  Quinn's was largely defended by Queenslanders, and when the Turks exploded a mine under the Post in May 1915, it was a young lieutenant from Brisbane, Terence McSharry, who saved the position.  McSharry is largely forgotten today, but he arguably saved the entire position at Gallipoli in one morning.
Third, Anzac Day had its genesis in Brisbane in January 1916. The Mayor of Brisbane called a meeting to consider how to honour our troops. It was proposed that April 25 be made a day of solemn commemoration, and Canon David Garland, the committee secretary, put together a plan for the ceremonies. This plan was adopted by each of the other states, and became what we now know as Anzac Day. 
Fourth, while Australian and New Zealand soldiers took terrible casualties, 
the British suffered far more.   
There were 8709 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders killed at Gallipoli, but 34,072 soldiers from Britain died there too.
It also has to be put in context, however, as I reminded Bill. Britain had a population far greater than Australia's.  Being as I am both English and Australian, and far older and wiser than most, I try to be even handed in this matter.

And the Australian population was largely British. We were a very young country, politically. Our stock was British.
Finally, stories of ANZAC courage are well deserved. 
Australian and New Zealand soldiers were highly regarded for their fighting qualities. Albert Jacka, who won a Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, exemplifies the Australian courage. 
 He was in a trench with four other men when it was heavily attacked. One by one, the others were killed or wounded until only Jacka remained. The Turks then rushed the position and seven of them got into the trench. Jacka singlehandedly attacked them and killed all seven, five with rifle fire and two with his bayonet.
When the war was over, almost 275,000 of these men returned home to build a nation. The traces of war were everywhere. Nearly one in three households sent a man away, but 55,000 Australians were killed and 155,000 were wounded. 
Imagine if that happened today. In an age when we are largely untouched by war, we should spare an hour or so on Anzac Day to honour those who have served to keep our nation free. 
The First World War set out national pride in place, and the annual Anzac parade includes all the fights in which our troops have been engaged.

Australia ALWAYS acquits itself well. Our fighting soldiers are amongst the best in the world, respected and feared. As it should be.

Anzac Day is when we show our respect. For yesterdays and today's soldiers.

Drink to the Oz Warriors.



  1. Replies
    1. I am alerting folk to the coming weekend. They can get their medals polished up and the old uniform out (to see if they still fit in).


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..