Adapted from the book ‘Don't forget me, cobber!’ by Matt Anderson A revised edition of this book was published in 2006.
“It will all be over by Christmas.”
Australia became a nation with the signing of its constitution at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 1 January 1901.
Only a few short years later in August 1914, after a period of great tension and upheaval in Europe, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Unlike today, most Australians felt they were more British than Australian. Because of this loyalty, the man who was to become Australia’s next Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, promised that “Australia will stand by to defend (Great Britain) to our last man and our last shilling”.
Men rushed to join the long queues at army barracks around Australia. All had different reasons for wanting to enlist. Many believed they had no choice but to protect England from invasion. Others thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel. And many just didn’t want to miss out on something so exciting. “Don’t worry,” they told their mothers, wives and girlfriends. “It will all be over by Christmas.” The first ships that took the soldiers off to war were filled to overflowing. Many of the men were from the country and some had never seen the ocean before. But they soon became used to it, as they spent many weeks at sea. When they finally reached land, many were disappointed they were not in England. The Generals had decided there were already too many soldiers in the British training camps, so the Australians were sent to Egypt, where they finished their training.
The Generals had also decided that these soldiers needed a name. They were to be known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZACs.
Turkey (then called the Ottoman Empire) was on the side of Germany in the First World War. The British Generals decided they could defeat Turkey if they could capture the capital city called Istanbul (then called Constantinople).
After the Turks sank several British and French ships in the Dardanelles, it was decided that the only way to capture Constantinople would be to land soldiers near a place called Gallipoli. The closest soldiers were the ANZACs, who had completed their training in Egypt. The Australians were getting restless, and after coming all this way they wanted to see how good they were in battle. They were soon to get their chance.
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(Above) This photograph shows the 11th Battalion sitting on a pyramid in Egypt. There are 1000 men in this photo. In a later page you will read about casualty figures. It may help to turn back to this page to help you imagine the number of soldiers mentioned. (AWM A02875)
More Segments here:
- The ANZACs’ Day – 25 April 1915
- Lone Pine and The Nek
- “No talking, lads, no smoking”