Gallipoli was not the first occasion on which Australians had served overseas. In 1885, New South Wales sent a contingent to the Sudan war and as the twentieth century dawned, Australian contingents also served in the Boer war. Although Australians died in all of these wars, none had the international or domestic impact of the Gallipoli campaign.
The young men of Gallipoli were the first ANZACs; ordinary young Australians doing their best in a campaign of intense ferocity. Their casualties, here horrendous, nearly 8,000 Australians were killed, and 78,000 wounded, and to what end?
The campaign was a failure, and yet of all the battlefields on which Australians have died, it is the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that has come to symbolise the Australian soldier’s courage, determination, fighting prowess, humour and mateship. The essence of Gallipoli was that in the face of adversity and potential defeat, the Australian spirit triumphed.
Gallipoli was not the only battle of the great war. At the conclusion of the war a quarter million Australians from a nation of only 5 million had been casualties, and sixty thousand Australians had been killed; a tragic average of one person for every seventeen in our population, either dead or injured as a result of war. We pause to reflect what might have been had we not lost such a significant number of our finest young men and women:
- The potential leaders of industry, trade and commerce that were lost; and
- The economic development that was stymied.
The pride and grief of Australia following Gallipoli formed a bond, so strong that it made a statement to the world that we had come of age and that our armed forces and our people were truly of one nation. By coming together on the 25 April each year, this spirit of national unity is rekindled.
ANZAC day reminds us that wars are to be avoided, but when necessary we must stand up for our values.
It requires us to reflect on the past with pride, but also to look ahead and build on the achievements of our predecessors. By displaying the characteristics of the ANZAC spirit, comradeship, unselfishness, courage and tenacity of spirit, we can enrich the Australian tradition.
We pause today to acknowledge all current and former members of our defence forces – the brave men and women who represent our country on a daily basis. No Australian is left untouched when a member of our defence force is killed in action. It is difficult to comprehend the grief associated with the loss of war of a parent, partner, child or sibling, let us also ensure that we remember the families.
In 2011, as a nation, we felt the loss of 11 soldiers and the wounding of a further 50 in Afghanistan alone. We have seen our personnel serve in Australia and overseas carrying on the spirit of ANZAC. We must not forget today’s veterans’, the young men and women who are returning from duty in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. ANZAC Day is a day to remember all men and women of the Australian Defence Force, regardless of the time they served.
On ANZAC Day we pay tribute to those of the Australian Defence Force, who were lost in training, or on operations to the wounded, the injured and the ill.
We have the need of the qualities of the ANZACs still, and we should continue to draw on them, for they can only make our community better and our nation more confident. Let us all remember ANZAC. In particular, we should pass on the significance of the occasion to our youth.
The ANZAC spirit exists in each of us so, therefore, let us be guided by the ANZAC spirit in facing the national and personal challenges ahead, and let us strive to be worthy of the memory of those we honour today.
Talisa McGregor (12B)
Co-Vice Captain of the School
Emily Kloss (9B)
Co-Captain Years 7-9