THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac
25 April 2011
Our Turkish friends, fellow Australians, New Zealand brothers and sisters, distinguished friends.
Ninety-six years ago in the pre-dawn chill, fifteen hundred Anzacs landed just south of here near Ari Burnu, under the cloak of darkness at 4.29am.
Further troops followed and by the end of the day more than 20,000 Australians and New Zealanders –ANZACs— had landed on the shores around us.
The 7th Battalion here to the north of the landing site.
They didn’t have the advantage of darkness, arriving in broad daylight.
They came under such heavy fire that it was not until the following day others could reach the wounded still stranded in their boats.
More than 2,000 ANZACs were killed on that bloody first day.
This marked the start of an occupation of this small toe hold on the peninsula, which lasted about eight months:
Before the inevitable withdrawal of the Anzac forces.
This commemorative ceremony takes us back to that time now beyond living memory.
To the Anzacs, saying an emotional goodbye to their homeland.
For some their last, as they sailed from Albany in November 1914.
Gallipoli was a great adventure and unknown for most of our young, naive diggers.
Many thought they would join the Allied effort on the Western front in defence of the British Empire.
Yet the British War Cabinet had other ideas.
Our first Aussie troops sailed to another shore.
To fight altogether unknown battles against an unknown foe.
Thousands would never return.
Lost forever to their loved ones, for many, their final resting place unknown.
We can but imagine the arrival of the Anzacs landing here facing the Turkish forces high above them.
Yet the landing foretold nothing of the horrors that were to face the Anzacs in the months ahead.
They faced extremes.
Extremes of terrain.
Extremes of climate.
As one soldier described the piercing wind:
It ducks around the corners,
Through all the hills it shoots;
It blows the milk from out of your tea
The laces from your boots
These extremes were only part of the hardships endured by both sides.
For many disease, hunger, exposure and even frostbite, had became their lot.
The troops dug trenches and tunnels and built makeshift defences to give them hope of any survival.
But these provided little respite from the incessant gun fire and shelling.
They confronted a determined, courageous and well led Turkish enemy:
Who were resolved to repulse this invasion of their territory.
And they did prevail, but at great cost, with an estimated 250,000 Ottoman casualties of whom around 86,000 lost their lives.
Australia suffered 27,700 casualties with 8,700 killed and New Zealand 7,500 casualties and 2,700 killed.
For many who served here survival was a matter of good luck rather than design.
One Australian soldier related his experience of the disastrous battle of Krithia in May in which 1,000 Australian troops were killed or wounded:
"The battle was ill conceived, they were running directly at entrenched Turkish positions:
with their digging shovels in front of their faces."
He realised that his guardian angel must have been with him that day as his back pack was riddled with holes.
His small shovel was minus a handle.
And he discovered later that a bullet had passed through the armpit of his tunic.
We gather here this morning in relative peace and quiet.
But our Anzacs never knew silence, never knew the air to be without the sound of fire or free from the stench of death.
The campaign had led some to the end of their tether, breaking their spirit.
Yet despite the circumstances.
They fought for one another.
From tragedy and sacrifice they learnt the strength and importance of mateship and indeed love for one another.
And this terse bloody and unwinnable campaign was a defining moment in understanding why we are who we are, in framing our national identity.
It was a formative chapter of our nationhood…providing unlikely heroes, a belief in ourselves and in our capacity to achieve great things together.
What flowed from the incredible struggle was respect for our adversaries and the ultimate victors from that campaign…. the Turkish army and the Turkish people.
The fact that we are all here.
At this place and at this time.
Is testimony to the mutual respect and friendship that has grown since those terrible days, now almost a century ago.
It is for these reasons that we gather here today.
The spirit of the Anzacs lives on.
A spirit that gives us strength and hope.
A spirit obvious in the current generation of serving men and women.
The Anzacs could never know the enduring legacy of their deeds of courage, of their service and sacrifice
While so many who came here remain, most in graves unknown.
Their spirit drives us to this day.
And it behoves us to accept the responsibility to do whatever we can to avoid war and find peaceful resolution to our differences.
This is how we can honour them.
Sergeant Leon Gellert, one of the Anzacs to arrive here this fateful day ninety-six years ago, wrote:
The dead would be remembered evermore –
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shores.
We take heart from the immortal words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to the mothers of those who never came home.
"You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land have become our sons as well."
These heroes were our first Anzacs.
May they forever rest in peace.
Lest we forget.
Minister Snowdon: Alice Plate –