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Today's quote:

Sunday, April 25, 2021



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."

So goes the Ode of Remembrance, which Australians observe every Anzac Day in remembrance of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915. But are we remembering it correctly? As Eamon Evans writes in his book "Great Australian Urban Legends", by and large, the answer is no. With plagiarism said to be the highest form of flattery, I hope he won't mind if I quote him:

"For a start, our heroic troops didn't land in the wrong place, as urban legend would have it, thanks to some bumbling Brit. 'It's a common misconception,' says the head of military history at the Australian War Memorial. 'In fact, the Anzacs landed pretty well right in the centre of the originally selected landing zone.' This was a strip of coastline about two kilometres long - and, relatively speaking, it wasn't a bad place to be. What's now called 'Anzac Cove' was well-protected from shellfire and manned by just a handful of Turks.

Myth two is that it was due to further British bumbling that we stayed in Anzac Cove for eight long months, until we finally gave up and sailed off to Europe. While there was no shortage of British incompetence throughout World War I- and the whole Dardanelles Campaign was certainly a bad idea - the Anzacs were actually under orders to march the moment they landed, but instead chose to dig a big trench. 'The first landing was opposed by only about eighty Turks, and the defenders were soon massively outnumbered, but the invaders failed to advance inland as they had been ordered,' says historian Peter Stanley. 'The Australians wanted to blame somebody else for a failure that was basically a failure of Australian command.'

Okay, so what about that scene in 'Gallipoli' when some Pommy bastard sends our boys to a certain death so as to create a 'diversion' for British troops? Troops who then spend their time drinking cups of tea, while the Anzacs get mowed down like grass.

Well, for a start, that Pommy bastard was really an Australian bastard. The Battle of the Nek, which the movie depicts, was an entirely Australian operation. And it was designed to create a diversion for Kiwi - not British - troops. For history writer Les Carlyon, the scale of the tragedy of The Nek was 'mostly the work of two Australian incompetents, [General Frederic] Hughes and [Colonel John] Antil', while for historian Gary Sheffield, 'Anzac forces were poorly trained and badly disciplined ... Australian troops in time became highly effective, but this was largely the product of experience.'

Without in any way wanting to diminish their sacrifice, it's worth noting that our boys weren't the only ones to die. While more than 8000 Australians lost their lives at Gallipoli, so too did around 34,000 Brits and at least 9000 Frenchmen. Together with soldiers from India and Pakistan and Bangladesh and Nepal. And Newfoundland and Senegal and Russia and Algeria. And let's not forget the roughly 56,000 dead soldiers from Turkey - soldiers who were, after all, defending their country. Urben legend tends to forget that Gallipoli was a human tragedy, not just an Australian one.

Also, not all the soldiers looked like Mel Gibson, that tall, tanned and musclebound bushman who could ride hard, shoot true, shear sheep and make a mean billy tea. Instead, most came from the suburbs, and they mostly wore standard British pith helmets, not those romantic slouch hats."

Lest we forget!

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