When my alarm sounded its’ awful jingle at 3:45 this morning, I felt pride in my ability to get up at such an hour, a time I would not usually be out and about, to honour those who have in the past, or are currently, serving my country which has and continues to allow me such freedom. Thank you to my relatives and friends who have participated in the forces.
Whilst I was looking forward to the Dawn Service, it still took me a bit of time to come around at this early hour. When I felt conscious enough, I took an Uber to the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. I had previously registered with the Australian Consulate, providing them my details in order to obtain access to the base.
The representatives at note who were a part of the service included:
Lieutenant Colonel Steve Frankel, Australian Army;
Major Adam Davidson, Australian Army;
Squadron Leader Sam Barnes, Royal Australian Air Force;
Dr Grayson Perry, Consul-General of Australia;
Mr Phillip Crawley, Honorary Consul of New Zealand;
Erdeniz Sen, Consul-General of Turkey.
I was extremely impressed by the service. It was held in a beautiful Tudor-style building that was bequeathed to the forces. The room we were in was immaculate and I felt so honoured to be there.
We were provided commentary by the Consul-General’s of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, which I found informative and brought an interesting perspective.
Other countries represented at the service included the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
Below is an excerpt from the program provided at the service, which I believe describes well what ANZAC Day means to Australians and will thus give my friends around the world a bit of an idea of what this day is so special to us. Lieutenant Colonel Frankel suggested that ANZAC Day is similar in significance to Canada Day and Remembrance Day combined.
Following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914, the whole British Empire euphorically sided with ‘the Old Country’. Many believed the war would be over by Christmas, so men rushed to enlist not wanting to miss the ‘excitement and adventure’. The Australian and New Zealand response was quick, seizing German New Guinea and German Samoa in August 1914.
Within days of the declaration of war, wider recruiting began. In little over a month, marches were held in the main capital cities hoping to encourage others to join them. For the war in Europe, Australia raised a new army of volunteers – the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The New Zealanders also raised a volunteer army, known as the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).
In October 1914, a naval convoy comprising the Australian Division and the NZEF set sail. Two months after arriving in Egypt, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was officially formed – first known as the A & .Z. A.C.; later abbreviated to ANZAC. Soon, these ANZACS joined the British and French in a frightful baptism of fire at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), a key German ally. SEizing the Dardanelles and Gallipoli was strategically important for the British. Commanders anticipated the campaign would be swift and successful, as the Turkish forces only had a force of 40,000 men to meet them.
Following a short naval campaign in the Dardanelles, the ANZAC’s lead a dawn assault on the shore of Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The first waves of ANZAC’s confronted a series of rocky heights covered with thorny scrub, and the awaiting Turkish forces. At great cost, The ANZAC’s, British, French and Indians continued to make small advances, but straight up the casualty rate started to mount.
The Australians and New Zealanders fought gallantly in the several fierce battles mounted from the muddy trenches, across open ground and from the sides of the sheer cliff faces. IN addition to the initial landings, other famous battles such as Lone Pine, The Nek and Chunuk Bair, are where the ANZAC legend emerged. However, successful counter-attacks bt the Ottomans from May 1915 soon saw the campaign turn into a stalemate.
On 20 September the Newfoundland Regiment landed at Suvia Bay. They immediately faced snipers, artillery fire and severe cold, as well as numerous other trench warfare hazards. The arrival of the Regiment coincided with another major offensive against the Turkish forces, which commenced earlier in August. Casualties were heavy for all involved, and the Gallipoli campaign was branded as a disaster for the British forces. Naturally, an evacuation was ordered by the British Government.
During daylight hours, the ANZAC’s kept up their attacks, and by night they gradually withdrew from Gallipoli. On 20 December, the ANZAC evacuation was complete. Surprisingly, this was not noticed by the Ottoman army, thanks to clever deception tactics used by the ANZAC’s. On 9 January 1916, the Ottoman forces conducted a final offensive at Gallipoli, revealing that the entire British force had withdrawn without casualty. The evacuation was the Allies’ most successful operation in Gallipoli.
The aftermath of Gallipoli was frightening. The British Empire contributed almost half a million troops to the Dardanelles Campaign, with 34,000 killed. The French lost 10,000 from 80,000 men. For two small nations, the ANZAC’s losses were more horrific with approximately 8,000 men killed in Gallipoli and a further 18,000 wounded. Overall, the Turkish casualties were approximately 250,000, including 60,000 deaths.
During the First World War, Australia had a population of five million people.
60,000 of the 330,000 who served never returned.
New Zealand’s population was about one million. Of the 110,000 that served, approximately 17,000 were killed in various theatres.
The ANZAC’s went o to serve with distinction in Palestine and on the Western Front. The name ANZAC is synonymous with Australian’s and New Zealander’s who continue to serve their country at home and abroad.
ANZAC Day was officially named in honour of those who fought at Gallipoli from 25 April 1915 until the cessation of hostilities. Today marks 103 years since the original ANZAC’s demonstrated their courage and bravery. May their names live for evermore. Lest we forget.
Courtesy of the “What is Anzac Day” booklet provided by the Australian Defence Force Officers at the Canadian Forces College, Toronto.
The Master of Ceremonies was extremely well-spoken and ran the service well. He closed the service with formalities and then a very Australian “… that’s it!” which made everyone laugh.
The majority of people in attendance were in military uniform and those I spoke with were in training at the College or in senior positions. As I mentioned, there were some extremely important and highly ranked personnel in attendance! I also spoke with a gentleman serving with the German army (he was also in training at the college).
I would strongly recommend any Australians in Toronto to make the effort to attend this service. The organisers of the event clearly went to tremendous efforts and whilst it was a very full room, it would be great to see more representation of Australian and New Zealand ‘civilians’ at the service next year!