Below is an essay that has been written by one of our Year 9 students in the stream 1 extension Humanities class, who have been studying ANZAC involvement in World War 1. The students were asked to write an essay reflecting on Australia’s commemoration of ANZAC day, and whether or not more emphasis needs to be placed on Australia’s involvement in the Western Front & Middle East.
Written by Lara Radic
Imagine the deafening sounds of rapid gunfire and explosions, the screams, as you shield yourself from the bullets and bayonets. The sight of dead bodies, some of which are familiar and dear to you. Imagine not knowing when you would see your family, or if you would ever get to see them again at all. The ANZACs serving in World War I didn’t have to imagine this; they were living it. World War I was a global war originating in Europe, that ran from 28 July 1914, to 11 November 1918; the result of a chain of events. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who were in involved in a battle at Gallipoli, which is a peninsula in Turkey. However, they were also involved in many other battles in the Middle East (a region which includes Egypt and Western Asia) and the Western Front (the main theatre of war during WW1). It can be argued that even though Gallipoli was a battle that gave us the opportunity to create a national identity and showed the triumph of character over adversity, there were many other significant battles planned and fought in the Middle East and on the Western Front. This essay essentially argues that Gallipoli is over-commemorated; that we should dedicate more focus to Australia’s involvement on the significant events in the Middle East and on the Western Front because Gallipoli wasn’t the only battle of hardship and tragedy, there were many successes that should be remembered and appreciated, and it is important we learn about and commemorate the other battles as they can show and teach us a lot.
Of course, the battle at Gallipoli was one that we fought as unified Australians, not just New South Welshmen or Victorians, and it was our first opportunity to earn the respect of other nations. But where is the respect for our other ANZACs that risked their lives for battles outside of Gallipoli? Gallipoli was essentially a British-led failure; they didn’t want to send their best ships or officers, it was badly planned due to their poor knowledge and there were disagreements between officers. It was a battle of hardship and tragedy, and cost the lives of many ANZACs, but it wasn’t the only one. A battle on the Western Front called the Battle of Fromelles in Northern France, 1916, was an unsuccessful attack on the German trenches, originally aimed to draw German attention away from an onslaught on the German lines on the banks of the Somme River. Thousands of injuries and deaths occurred; in one day, 1917 soldiers were killed and over 3600 were injured, some dying later of their injuries. The Germans quickly regained any lost territory, and there was no opportunity to bury our fallen ANZACs. It is described as ‘the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history.’ However, you do not see or hear people talking about or commemorating that battle and the ANZACs involved nearly as much as Gallipoli. Every battle had its price, and they deserve more focus and to be commemorated.
Whilst the battles of hardship, tragedies, loss of life, and defeat should be commemorated for the sacrifice involved, there were also greatly successful battles; ones that were successful due to careful planning, great knowledge, and skillful tactics. Ones that should be remembered and admired. The Battle of Beersheba in the Middle East was Australia’s first great World War I victory and history’s last great cavalry charge. On October 31, 1917, the men from the 4th and 12th regiments of the Australian Light Horse Brigade achieved a successful attempt in capturing the desert town of Beersheba, enabling the British Empire forces to break the Ottoman line near the Gaza and advance into Palestine. The soldiers began charge 6km out, then began to gallop 2km out. The surprise element of the attack, and the decision to make it a cavalry (horseback) charge were plans and decisions that had a significant impact on the positive outcome of the battle. The Battle of Hamel (4 July 1918) fought on the Western Front is another fine example of a battle that should be remembered for its success. It was led by John Monash; it is regarded by many, Monash’s greatest hour, earning him a reputation as a commander of the genius. Monash planned the battle to last 90 minutes; it lasted 93. The purpose of the attack was to take the high ground east village of Hamel, as it would help an advance further east along both banks of the Somme. With 1000 US infantrymen, 4 brigades drawn from 2nd, 3rdand 4th Australian Divisions, 8000 men attacked Hamel. The Germans lost some 2600 men whilst Australia and the US had a total of 1260 deaths and casualties. The battle was regarded as a model of innovative tactics, skillful planning and attention to detail, one which was repeated on a larger scale in the series of Allied (British Empire & Australia, France, Russia, Serbia, Belgium, and Italy) advances from 8 August which ended the war. These battles are exemplary and deserve to be remembered, appreciated, and admired for their success and reasons behind success, and outline why the Middle East and Western Front need more focus.
We, as Australians, from an early age have been taught about the significance and story behind ANZAC Day; how the brave ANZACs fought for our country and died for us in Gallipoli, and that is what most of us have associated with ANZAC Day for our whole lives. But we have never thought about the battles in the Middle East and on the Western Front, and what they show and teach us. Gallipoli may have taught us about the triumph of character over adversity and ‘diggers’ (military slang term for ANZAC soldiers) qualities such as good humour, mateship, and courage, but there are many other qualities, concepts, and tactics we can learn from other battles. The Battle of Ypres on the Western Front showed how we could use similar tactics in the same place every time we fought there and still come out successful, which must have saved officers a lot of time and planning. The Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on the Western front taught us how using tanks positively impacted the outcome, showing us that tanks were an effective innovation that we could continue using. The Battle of Amiens on the Western Front showed us how planning a surprise attack where the opposition has little idea of the number of troops you have is smart and impacts the success, giving a strong idea of an effective tactic. The Battle of Beersheba in the Middle East showed how surprise attacks and unexpected tactics; the cavalry charge, were effective. The Battle of Hamel on the Western Front proved that careful planning and knowledge before advancing into a battle is highly crucial and beneficial, and was something to take note of. All of these battles, like Gallipoli, also showed and established the morals that we as Australians value to this day, as well as beneficial tactical and equipment-wise knowledge that we can learn from if we put more focus on them too.
Realising that Gallipoli wasn’t the only battle of hardship and tragedy, that there were many successful battles, and that studying other battles can teach us a lot, we can conclude that Gallipoli is over-commemorated and that we should dedicate more focus to Australia’s involvement on the significant events in the Middle East and on the Western Front. Doing so can influence the way we commemorate ANZAC Day; we would be showing more respect to the soldiers and leaders not just in Gallipoli, but in many other battles who also deserve the same amount of respect and focus. Imagine serving in World War l; the horrors, experiences, and trauma you would endure. But once you realise how people would go on to remember and commemorate your efforts and sacrifice, and the way you helped our nation, it all becomes worth it. That is something each and every ANZAC deserves.