Tag Archives: Anzac

April, the month of remembrance

My mind is on the First World War this month. Anzac Day, will be commemorated this month. On this day (25 April) Australians and New Zealanders remember those who have served and died in war. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. This was the landing on Gallipoli, which happened 103 years ago, in April 1915.

 

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Postcard celebrating the end of World War I, 1919

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100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba

Yesterday (31 October) was the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba. One hundred years ago Australian light horsemen charged against Turkish defences to capture the town of Beersheba.

The account below explaining the Battle of Beersheba is taken from two books that I often reach for when I am trying to understand Australia’s military involvement in the First World War — The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles by Chris Clark and Broken Nation by Joan Beaumont.

Australians were in Palestine as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). The commander-in-chief of the EEF, General Sir Edmund Allenby had been told by the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George to take Jerusalem as a Christmas gift for the British nation. To do this the EEF needed to break the Turkish defensive line focussed on Gaza and Beersheba.

Allenby decided that this would be done by capturing Beersheba and its valuable water wells and then moving onto Gaza. The plan had British infantry troops attacking Beersheba and Gaza simultaneously, while the Australian and New Zealand horsemen of the Desert Mounted Corps would come in from another direction to also attack Beersheba.

By the afternoon of the 31 October the Desert Mounted Corps were in place for the final attack on Beersheba. Taking the town had become critical because of the desperate need for water. Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel, the Australian commander of the Desert Mounted Corps called upon the fresh troops of Brigadier General William Grant’s 4th Light Horse Brigade to lead the attack.

It was decided that given the urgency of the situation the attack would be a high risk cavalry charge across open ground. The 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments formed three lines about 500 metres apart, with five metres between each rider. Not having cavalry weapons, the lance or sabre, the troops made do by carrying their long bayonets in their hands.

As they approached the Turkish trenches the light horsemen broke into a gallop, drew bayonets and yelled wildly. Turkish field guns, machine guns, rifles and even German aerial bombing were unable to stop the charge. The unexpected speed and momentum of the light horsemen allowed them to quickly overtake the Turkish defenders. Within an hour all resistance collapsed.

For Australians the successful charge at Beersheba was welcomed news after the frightful stories of futility coming from the Western front in 1917. Below is one of the early news reports of the breakthrough at Beersheba. This understated account, with map, appeared in Hobart’s newspaper  The Mercury on the 3 November 1917. Later accounts like this one in the Singleton Argus on the 8 November 1917, which highlighted the ANZACs feats, would help to build the national memory of Beersheba as a moment of Australian exceptionalism.

 

Beersheba report

 

Centenary of the Great Strike 1917

Today, marks the centenary of the Great Strike of 1917. According to Joan Beaumont  in Broken Nation the Australian eastern states erupted into industrial warfare in August 1917.

The catalyst was a dispute in the New South Wales Government Tramways Workshops in Randwick, Sydney. The railway management eager to cut costs introduced a new card system designed to measure the cost and performance of each worker. In response about 6,000 railway and tramway men stopped work on 2 August.

Within five weeks, almost 70,000 workers, across three states and numerous industries had joined the industrial action. Despite this initial energy, by September and October strikes at individual workplaces were broken and the union movement were left significantly diminished.

As Joan explains, the historical importance of the Great Strike of 1917 has largely been forgotten, overshadowed by the stronger story of the Anzac legend. Its centenary today is a good reminder that the search for historical truth is not always found in the headlines of history.

Do you think other events have been overshadowed by the story of the Anzac legend? How would you describe the Anzac legend?

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Victorian Government railway engineering works, 1879

History, war and remembering in 2017

Anzac Day

Australians commemorate Anzac Day, 25 April as a day of national remembrance for those who have died in war. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. This was the landing on Gallipoli, which happened 102 years ago, in April 1915.

Other 2017 military anniversaries

Other significant military anniversaries in 2017 include:

15 February 2017: 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore in 1942
19 February 2017: 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin in 1942
4 May 2017: 75th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942
4 June 2017: 75th anniversary of Bomber Command Operations in 1942
25 August 2017: 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942
14 September 2017: 70th anniversary of Australia’s first peacekeeping operation in 1947
26 September 2017: Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood in 1917
23 October 2017: 75th anniversary of Battle of El Alamein and the culmination of the North Africa campaigns in 1942
31 October 2017: Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba in 1917
2 November 2017: 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign in 1942
11 November 2017: 99th anniversary of Remembrance Day in 1918

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Early Anzac Day crowds at Anzac Arch, Adelaide

Is there an anniversary in 2017 that is particularly important to you?