Great Men from the Great WarApril 16, 2014

On April 25, Australia will look back to the distant past, almost one hundred years ago, to commemorate Anzac Day. The event is an acronym for a military formation, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. What they did would be a seminal event in Australian history.

On January 1, 1901, the British self-governing bodies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia formed one nation, resulting to the Federation of Australia. It was a momentous occasion, but the Great War would test this young country. Gallipoli was part of the Ottoman Empire, weak and about to disintegrate. But they were supported by the German Empire, and the British Empire thought that capturing Constantinopole, modern-day Istanbul, would be the key to the Allied Powers' victory over the Central Powers. Joining Britain were young fellows from Australia, India, Newfoundland, and New Zealand. They may have sensed victory, as the Ottoman forces were weakened from the First Balkan War, a conflict that resulted to the independence of European countries in the Balkan region. They were unfamiliar with the territory, though, a peninsula that was a strategic place during ancient times. The British forces were unable to foresee that this campaign would last nearly a year, taking a toll on both sides. It would be a heavy loss for the British Empire, resulting to a retreat to Egypt. Australia would learn something valuable from this battle.

Someone not from Down Under may find it odd that a nation observes an occasion both humiliating and heartbreaking. It was during that fateful moment, far away from home, when these soldiers would learn about comradeship, or mateship, as Australians would put it. Furthermore, Anzac Day was a tribute to the eitght thousand soldiers who lost their lives. They were the reasons why Australia became more Australians and less British. This also marks a special bond between Australia and New Zealand, another member of the British Empire from the Pacific, which like its neighbour, would gain its independence. The disastrous campaign would be a turning point for Australia, which they would realise a few decades later. It was also the same for the Ottoman Empire, as World War I led to the disintegration of an empire that conquered the Eastern Roman Empire. This was followed by the birth of Turkey.

Many may find it hard to relate to Anzac Day, as it seemed obscure if compared to the events that happened during World War II. They might want to look for a copy of "Gallipoli", Peter Weir's accurate depiction of events leading to the Battle of Nek, which was part of the Gallipoli campaign. It was a tragic moment for these chaps, who died in that narrow stretch of ridge. Australia's rural landscape reflected the innocence of the country back then, unaware of their fate in a foreign land. There were moments of tenderness, even knockabout, the general sentiment of a young nation back then. It would be hard not to be affected by what happened next.

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