Sir John Monash gave a speech on Anzac Day 1922 at Scotch College, Melbourne, his former school, which opened with the following words:
It was on this day, seven years ago, just as day was breaking, that the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand stormed the beetling cliffs of Gallipoli, and in so doing, founded the tradition of the Australian nation.1 (emphasis added)
Since then, many a Prime Minister and Australian leader of all persuasions have echoed his sentiments. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, at the Entombment of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial in 1993, said:
It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity.2
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in his speech at the centenary service at Gallipoli on ANZAC Day 2015, said:
Today, we do not glorify war but honour the values the Anzacs embodied in the most trying of circumstances. We acknowledge that the worst of times brought out the best in them – extraordinary courage, perseverance against all odds and selflessness in doing their duty. In Murdoch’s words, they had “the noble faces of men who have endured”...
In the magnificent failure at Gallipoli, the successful advances in the Middle East and the terrible victory on the Western Front, our soldiers embodied the commitment to freedom, the spirit of adventure and the bonds of mateship that we hold dear to this day. Their values helped to forge our nation’s identity.3 (emphasis added)
And New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key said,
To us, Gallipoli is also a byword for the best characteristics of Australians and New Zealanders, especially when they work side by side in the face of adversity.4
Gallipoli has become a magnet for young backpackers, as has the Kokoda Track. What are they searching for? I am sure it has something to do with the search for identity. Perhaps it also has to do with locking in to the challenge to try to match themselves against the endurance of these young men and to understand the sacrifice that forged this Anzac tradition in our nation.
Calling the Nation to Embrace her True Identity
Deep inside, Australians know that sacrifice is better than selfishness, courage is better than fear and cowardice, mateship and trust are essential to success, and perseverance is necessary for a breakthrough. Our nation was forged on these qualities. These are the character traits that we need to promote as the identity for a healthy society instead of cascading into the morass of moral decay. We need to pull our nation back from the precipice to uphold these values displayed by our ANZAC heroes.
The bugle call is going forth for a new generation to stand up and be seen and heard for a morally-sustainable society. The ANZAC values are based on Judeo-Christian teaching, which was the accepted norm at Federation, which has made the West prosper and given us a free society. Secular humanistic relativism is now leading each person to do what is right in his/her own eyes and giving no firm foundation for society. The freedoms that we once enjoyed are now being quickly eroded. The foundational societal structure of the natural family unit is under threat. Our children are being brainwashed by a small minority with a big agenda to destroy the freedoms our forefathers fought to win.
We need to re-establish biblical values. These are what our ANZACs represented. These are the ‘noble ideals’, ‘noble thoughts’ and ‘common ideals of worthy purpose’ that Monash mentions.5 (refer to the ANZAC phenomenon). These values are what Jesus taught: self-denial, running the race, laying down one’s life for others, loving one another. These ANZAC qualities should be what Australians and New Zealanders are noted for. This needs to be our identity – individually and nationally.
We have an opportunity to use the ANZAC message to “band the community together in elevated thought and common national purpose” as Monash said.6
Let us come together and lift the eyes of our nation to again value and teach these qualities instead of wallowing in selfishness, greed, lust and fleshly desire. The upcoming centenary of Beersheba and the Middle Eastern Campaign is an opportunity that we should not miss to promote such values.
The Darker Side
Lest we idolise the ANZACs, let me assure you that some were not worthy of praise. Many Australian soldiers did not start well. When the ANZACs arrived in Cairo, they were keen to explore the city in their free time. In downtown Cairo lay the red light district of Haret al Wazzir. Many troopers soon ended up with venereal diseases and about 200 were sent home in shame. On Good Friday, April 2, 1915, about 2,500 ANZACs rioted in this quarter, allegedly complaining about the spread of venereal disease! Many of them were also drunk at the time.
Some also did not finish well. After the war in the Middle East had ended, the troops from the ANZAC Mounted Division were camping on the coastal plains of Palestine near the Arab village of Surafend. This is near the site of the New Zealand’s worst battle where they lost 44 dead and 81 wounded. The Arab villagers were in the habit of pillaging the soldier’s goods and even stripping dead soldiers. This incensed the soldiers.
The final straw came in December 1918 when a New Zealander, Trooper Leslie Lowry, was disturbed in his tent at night and found a thief pillaging his goods. He jumped out of bed and gave chase but was shot dead by the robber. In the morning the soldiers followed the footprints to Surafend. The incident was reported to the British headquarters, but nothing was done to find or apprehend the perpetrator. The New Zealanders wanted justice and decided to take matters into their own hands. They gathered willing ANZAC fighters, removed the women and children from the village and demanded the murderer be handed over. When this did not happen, they killed dozens of men and set the village on fire! General Allenby was so angry that he stormed into the camp, gave a tirade to the troops for shaming the ANZAC name, and demanded the killers come forward. When the ANZACs stood shoulder to shoulder as mates, he left in disgust, but refused to give any military awards to any of these troopers.7
Thankfully, the ANZACs are not remembered for these acts, and we certainly do not want anyone to emulate these negative and base characteristics. Despite their shortcomings, when they were called upon to display their better qualities, they created a legend.
- Warhaft, S., ‘Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia’, Black Inc, 2004, 90-91
- Warhaft, op cit, 90-91
- Ibid, 90-91
- See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surafend_affair
- Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/001189/ Private R. Thompson, 2/2nd Battalion, of Sydney, NSW playing his bugle. (Negative by D. Parer).