Remembering ANZAC Day: 100 Years Later

ANZAC Day Morning Ceremony
Musical Arts Center
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
April 25, 2015

We gather this morning to commemorate the centennial of ANZAC Day, the landing of soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25th, 1915.

It is a day that is, in many respects, the most important national occasion in Australia and New Zealand.

Through the Gallipoli campaign, the Allies hoped to gain control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits, capture Constantinople, and open a Black Sea supply route to Russia. It was also hoped that creating a new front in the war would prove too much for the Ottomans, thus bringing about an early end to the war.

Instead, the Battle of Gallipoli turned out to be one of greatest disasters of the First World War.

Devastating losses were sustained in the doomed campaign.

Of about 14,000 New Zealanders who served on Gallipoli1, nearly 5,000 were wounded and about a fifth—more than 2,700—lost their lives.

Nearly 20,000 Australian soldiers were wounded on Gallipoli and more than 8,700 lay dead after eight months of fighting, and with them many more allied and Turkish soldiers.2

Though the military operations were a failure, out of the Gallipoli campaign and the grim years of the war that followed began to emerge, for the first time, distinct New Zealand and Australian identities.

The great Australian war historian and correspondent C.E.W. Bean went so far as to write: “it was on the 25th of April, 1915, that the consciousness of Australian nationhood was born.”3

And the same can be said of New Zealand.

Bean, who travelled to Egypt with the 1st Australian Imperial Force in 1914 and accompanied the troops to Gallipoli, saw in the ANZAC soldiers distinctive qualities that became part of the ANZAC legend. The ANZAC soldiers were enterprising and independent, loyal to their mates and country, and bold in battle. They were the elite of the New Zealand and Australian armies—volunteers all—and they committed themselves without hesitation to the nobility of their cause, and fought with courage, skill, and audacity.

Historian Alistair Thomson notes that the ANZAC army corps suited the egalitarian nature of the Australian soldiers. He writes: “Relations between officers and other ranks were friendly and respectful, and any man with ability could gain promotion. According to the legend,” Thompson continues, “these qualities, …discovered and immortalized in war, typified Australia and Australian society, a frontier land of equal opportunity in which enterprising people could make good. This was the nation that ‘came of age’ at Gallipoli.”4

And so, today we join with millions around the world to honor the memories of not only the ANZACs who fought on Gallipoli, but also to honor all current and former men and women of the Defence Forces.

We remember those who fell in both world wars, in the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation, the Vietnam War, and in Afghanistan.

We remember, too the many women who served during the First World War, including the dedicated nurses who were often directly in the line of fire, as well as those who served on the home front, where they undertook recruiting and fundraising activities, assembled comfort packages for soldiers overseas, and worked in industries and managed farms.

We remember the fallen of Britain, France, and India in this campaign.

And we remember the Turkish dead of a country once our adversary, now our companions in grief and remembrance.

We remember, too, the men and women from Indiana University who served in the Great War and whose sacrifices are memorialized in Memorial Hall, Memorial Stadium, and the Indiana Memorial Union, all of which bear the word “memorial” in their names to ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten. The names of these brave soldiers and nurses are also enshrined in the Golden Book in the Indiana Memorial Union, along with the names of military veterans connected to IU as far back as the War of 1812.

We remember, too, the countless civilians around the world who have suffered the devastating consequences of war.

The First World War was, of course, one of the deadliest and most savage conflicts in history and one that fundamentally changed the world. The diplomat George Kennan called it “the great seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century, because it led to so many further catastrophes.”5 It became known as the Great War.

Its impact continues to reverberate in so much of what is familiar in our world today, including modern-day warfare, ethnic nationalism fueled by ancient rivalries, political extremism, global terrorism, contested national borders, government expansion, and international peacekeeping.

And, of course, one only needs to think of some of the world’s major recent and current geo-political areas of instability and conflict—the Balkans, the Middle East and the Ukraine, for example—to realize that many of the most complex problems in these regions are direct and lingering consequences of the First World War. Thus, the study of this tragic war can help illuminate in major ways, our understanding of some of the most difficult and seemingly intractable problems facing our modern world.

And a century after the landing at Gallipoli, we can still learn much from the ANZACs.

We can emulate their sense of humanity and compassion, look after one another, and intervene when we see others in need.

We can strive to embody their sense of commitment, courage and perseverance in the face of difficult times.

And we can work to ensure that our society continues to value freedom, tolerance, and equality.

Through our commitment to these ideals, future generations will continue to understand and honor the price that has been paid by so many for the freedoms we all enjoy and the ANZAC spirit will continue to be cherished and remembered.

We now follow with the laying of the wreath on the war memorial. Today we have erected a temporary plinth in honor of those who have served. While many dignitaries have laid the wreath, it is becoming more common to involve children. With this new stage in remembrance, I invite Krista Maglen and her son, Mio, together with Amar Flood and his son, Benjamin, to lay the wreath on the memorial.

Source Notes

  1. David Green, New Zealand at War: The Anzac Connection, “How Many New Zealanders Served on Gallipoli?” Web. Accessed April 21, 2015, URL: http://ww100.govt.nz/how-many-new-zealanders-served-on-gallipoli 
  2. Australian War Memorial, “Australian Fatalities at Gallipoli,” Web. Accessed April 22, 2015, URL: https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/gallipoli/fatalities/
  3. C.E.W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, volume II, The Story of Anzac: From 4 May, 1915, to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, Angus & Robertson, 1924), 910.
  4. Alistair Thompson, Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend, (Monash University Publishing, 2013) 32, ProQuest ebrary. Web. 23 April 2015.
  5. George F. Kennan, The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order: Franco-Russian Relations, 1875-1890, (Princeton University Press 1979), 3.