Anzac Day salutes the courage and valour of those soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. They may have suffered defeat, however, their courage spawned a legend which is observed to this day. Those initial "Anzacs" were volunteers from the First Australian Imperial Force. They had just completed training in Egypt when they were called to serve alongside British and French troops sailing up the Dardanelles Strait.
Their ultimate aim was to capture Gallipoli Peninsula, then under German and Ottoman control, through the sea route of the strait, a vital stretch of water connecting the Black Sea with the Aegean. Those original diggers must have been frightened and confused when they disembarked on the thin strip of beach known as Gaba Tepe on April 25, 1915.
It was still dark and chilly as the boats disgorged about 20,000 Australian soldiers just before dawn on the Gallipoli peninsula. Their commanding officers had under-estimated the determination of the enemy Turks, under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatrk. But the Australians and New Zealanders fought on.
These "worthy sons of the Empire" fought a piecemeal battle under mixed orders. The Turks, perched atop the surrounding hills, took pot-shots at the troops. Despite the seeming impossibility of Winston Churchill's Dardanelles war plan, fighting on the peninsula dragged on for another eight-and-a-half months. Twenty thousand Australian soldiers landed just before dawn on the Gallipoli peninsula. By nightfall, 747 of those soldiers would lie dead on the beach or close by in the surrounding steep cliffs, killed by Turkish troops.
The Gallipoli campaign claimed the lives of 8000 Australian soldiers; in all, more than 60,000 Australians died during World War I. In that time, 44,070 Allied troops were killed, 8709 of whom were Australians.
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The first Anzac Day was held on April 25, 1916, when every state held ceremonies to honour the fallen and it continues to provide the nation time to pause and reflect on that horrific death toll from 1915.
The Anzac Day dawn service is usually held at a town cenotaph, or at a memorial park, or in Canberra, at the Australian War Memorial. Later in the day, people will join the Anzac Day march and parade, alongside schoolchildren and perhaps relatives wearing medals bestowed to loved ones.
A commemoration service may also be held, where a wreath may be laid at a cenotaph or monument marking soldiers who fell when serving for their country. In the afternoon, people may indulge in a game of "two-up" at their local pub or club. Anzac Day is an opportunity to reflect on our first major military action during World War I. Lest we forget.