103 years ago Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli. Their aim was to capture the capital of the Ottoman Empire, a staunch supporter of Germany, and to open up the Gallipoli Peninsula and thus the Black Sea to the Allied forces. Australian and New Zealand servicemen were dropped off at the wrong location and soon found themselves in a stalemate with no hope of progressing. After 8 months of futility and death the Anzac forces were evacuated. Over 11,000 Australian and New Zealanders died during these 8 months. Being countries with such low populations the effects were devastating.
In 1915 when news reached Australia and New Zealand that servicemen had landed in Gallipoli celebrations were held. New Zealand and had a half day celebration, Australia made speeches. People were proud that their servicemen were making a meaningful strike against the German Empire. But these soldiers that both nations were so proud of never stood a chance of meeting their mission. They were sent to the wrong landing site. It was decided to drop them off anyway despite the location being geographically impossible for the Allies to win from. On the morning of April 25th 1915 a dawn service was held for the soldiers before setting them off to be slaughtered.
This futile campaign came to help create both the New Zealand and Australian national idinties and has been credited for developing New Zealand’s fiercely independent nature. They would never again be commanded into slaughter. It also forged our two countries even closer with a bond made from shared grief, bravery and blood. Before we were neighbours, afterwards our two countries became like brothers. And we still have that same sibling rivalry but also deep love for one another to this day.
Anzac Day was first celebrated only one year later, in 1916. Only four months after troops had been evacuated. It was celebrated not only in Australia and New Zealand but also in England and Egypt. The dawn service that had been held as a last mass for many of the soldiers deployed became part of this celebration. To get up, in the cold dark, and to think about your maker and sacrifice. This tradition still holds.
Lest we forget. Lest repeat.