Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anzac Day 2007

Today we do well to remember and meditate on that first ANZAC day. And indeed the service and sacrifice of all those who have fought for freedom. There's not much you can do except humbly say 'thank-you' when you read this official account of the first day at below by Australian official correspondent, and later official war historian Charles Bean...

"Gallipoli (One). – The Australians and Maorilanders landed in two bodies, the first being a covering force to seize the ridges around the landing [which took place] about an hour later. The moon that night set about an hour and a half before daylight. This just gave time for the warships and transports of the covering force to steam in and land the troops before dawn.

During the whole of this trying time if one thing cheered the men more than another it was the behaviour of their officers. I saw one officer in charge of a machine gun who one knew for certain must be killed if the fight lasted. His men were crouching under cover of a depression a few inches deep on the brow of the hill. He himself was sitting calmly on top of the rise searching for targets through his glasses. Presently three or four salvoes of shrapnel burst right over that group, ending with a round of common shell with its terrifying flash and scatter of loose earth. A shout came from somewhere in the rear, "Pass the word to retire!" The officer turned round. "Where does that order come from?" he asked, sharply. "Passed up from the rear, sir," was the answer. "Well, pass back and find out who gave it," said the officer. "Yes, who says retire?" said several of the men. This was done, and next moment the order came up, "Line to advance and entrench on forward slope of the hill." There was a moment’s delay in gathering up rifles, and then over the hill they went, Dusk was just falling, and the enemy’s battery happened at that moment to switch off in order to fire a few last salvoes towards the beach. The officer in question was there at his post next morning, when it became necessary to send a man down the hill on some business. Before the man had gone 20 yards he was wounded. The officer walked down the hill at once to pick him up. Within a couple of seconds the Turks had a machine gun trained on him and he fell, riddled with bullets. Australia has lost many of her best officers in this way. The toll has been really heavy, but the British theory is that you cannot lead men from the rear, at any rate, in an attack of this sort. It would be absurd to pretend that the life of an officer like that one was wasted. No-one knows how long his example will live on amongst men. There were others, whom I will mention later on when the casualties have all reached Australia, who died fighting like tigers, some who fully knew they would die. One was sometimes inclined to think this sort of leading useless, but none who heard the men talking next day could doubt its value. "By God! Our officers were splendid," one Australian told me. Where I went I heard the same opinion expressed."

For the full report click here.

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