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The Rock-itt : April 2011
towns like Mons, Le Cateau and Ypres (the 1 st Battle of which was still in progress as the fleet sailed). News of these depressing initial defeats reached the fleet, which must have made the troops less confident. For the foreseeable future, the Australasian Force was required to winter in Egypt (where Britain was protecting its interests in the Suez Canal) in and around Cairo and at Mena Camp. Here it was to train in the desert as a combined Corps, against an imaginary foe, and against the potential strike by Turkey (the crumbling Ottoman Empire), who had recently entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. During this period the British Army was recruiting hard through the campaign by Lord Kitchener, where volunteers, like the Australian and New Forces, were eager to join up. These part tim e forces, with little or no experience in the eyes of the British Generals, were to be held back until a massive offensive could be undertaken on the Western Front, now completely at a stalem ate since September 1914 owing to the trench system. At this time, the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, decided that to assist allies Russia and to break through to the Black Sea, a sea borne attack on the rugged peninsula of Gallipoli, would secure the narrow straits of the entrance to the Sea Of Marmara and enable the British and French fleet to attack Constantinople, the key to the Black Sea ports. After failing in March 1915 to subdue the forts by naval guns alone it was decided to send in land forces at several key points at the tip of the Northern Cape, at Helles and Gaba Tepe. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (to soon be named A.N.Z.A.C. for short) was to assault the apparently undefended and rugged hills of this part of Turkey and seize the key defences with a view to silence the guns of the forts and enable the Navy to pass through unmolested. With frequent delays it was finally decided that the entire fleet should set sail from the Island of Lemnos, where it and been preparing for some time, and land on the beaches to the north of Gaba Tepe (a heavily defended stronghold) and advance inland to the objectives laid out by General Hamilton and his Staff, before dawn on the morning of 25th April 1915. By dusk on the first day, it was clear to the generals that the extreme terrain had accounted for too many troops, despite incredible stories of valour, and that the outposts held on various ridges, overlooked by Turkish snipers from almost all sides were untenable. Reluctant to withdraw from the beach-head because of the associated risk of massive loss of life, General Hamilton, commanding from the Queen Elizabeth some way off shore, ordered the corps to “Dig, dig, dig”, which it duly did. This unconnected set of rifle pits was to all intents and purposes the furthest extent that these troops and those that followed in the next 8 months reached in a terrible bloody baptism of war. This fruitless cam paign however was to prove to the British Army (and themselves) that these strong minded m en from the southern hemisphere were tough and courageous fighters, who would not shrink from a scrap and who in time, in France on the W estern Front were to tip the balance of the war against the German armies in the summer of 1918. So it is to these “Diggers” that we owe ANZAC Day; it is to ANZAC Cove, named by General Birdwood on or about the 29th April 1915, that thousands of modern day Aussies travel to commemorate this bitter fight and arrival on the world stage as a nation and to walk the battlefield, small though it is, to understand that by the grace of God and our forefathers, we too could have been sent to such a place had we been born in the late 1890’s. Australian troops landing at Anzac C ove at 8.00 am – G allipoli, 25th April, 1915 The last party of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade to leave Gallipoli, December 1915