From Mon Apr 25 10:02:55 2005
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:06:22 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <> Subject: Gallipoli—90 years ago
Article: 210423
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Ninety years on, Gallipoli campaign still grips nation's imagination

Agence France Presse, Sunday 24 April 2005, 1:24 PM

The last survivor died three years ago and the battles ended in bloody stalemate, but 90 years later the Gallipoli campaign of World War I still exercises a powerful grip on Australia's national psyche.

Some 20,000 Australians and New Zealanders including Australian Prime Minister John Howard are expected Monday at Anzac Cove in Turkey, where thousands of men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) waded ashore on April 25, 1915.

The dawn service from Gallipoli will be televised nationwide in Australia, where every state capital will also hold its own parade and memorial service involving tens of thousands of veterans and other groups.

Some retailers will be closed by law for the morning on Anzac Day, a national holiday. Other retailers in at least one state have also been urged to shut for the morning as a mark of respect.

Anzac Day ... is our most sacred day, said South Australia industrial relations minister Michael Wright.

Near-saturation media coverage is marking the 90th anniversary. One newspaper plans to publish, for the first time, an honour roll of all the 11,000 or so Australians and New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli.

Another is giving away free packs of Anzac biscuits made to the same recipe as the wartime issue.

Australia, which sent troops to fight overseas in both world wars, Korea and Vietnam, takes pains to remember all its veterans, who have their own government minister. The Returned Services League is an influential social organisation in every town.

But Margaret Anderson, director of the History Trust of South Australia, said it was unclear why Gallipoli in particular exercises such a hold over the national imagination.

Historians still struggle to understand why what was really a very costly stalemate ... became a national legend almost immediately, she told the Australian Associated Press.

Perhaps it was the sheer scale of the losses, although the losses would of course be greater on the Western Front in the years that followed.

Perhaps it was simply the fact that this was the first time Australians had fought under their own flag.

Whatever the reasons, from the very beginning, Gallipoli was hailed as Australia's national baptism of fire.

Young Australians, she said, seemed to be searching for a sense of identity through history. I think that perhaps the Gallipoli legend is one of the most powerful ways in which they are tending to do that.

Gallipoli came only 14 years after a number of former British colonies came together in a federation to form Australia.

The sentiment of the time was that a nation worthy of the name must have experienced the sacrifice of blood, wrote Tony Wright in the Bulletin magazine.

Like all seminal national events, Gallipoli also gave rise to myths. The 1981 movie Gallipoli fuelled perceptions among many Australians that incompetent British generals had sacrificed colonial troops to die as cannon fodder.

Australian media in recent years has noted that while 8,709 Australians and 2,701 New Zealanders were killed, more than 21,000 British troops and almost 9,800 French soldiers also died in the nine-month campaign, which ended with an allied withdrawal from the peninsula.

More than 1,300 Indian troops also died. On the other side, Turkey lost some 86,000 men.

The Gallipoli legend is also powerful enough to spark political battles. Howard has come in for opposition criticism after admitting that his government had asked Turkish authorities for roadworks at Anzac Cove to accommodate the thousands of visitors.

Some critics say the new road has spoilt the character of the cove.

A group campaigning for a better deal for East Timor in negotiations over offshore oil and gas reserves has invoked the Anzac spirit to demand more concessions from Canberra. Veterans of a World War II campaign in the country, when Timorese risked their lives to help Australian troops fighting the Japanese, are among those taking part.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has described an advertising campaign by the group as dishonest and irresponsible.

Of those who fought the real battles, only three Australian World War I veterans are still alive. None served at Gallipoli.

Peter Casserly, 107, first marched in an Anzac Day parade at the age of 22 and it was another 84 years before he attended his second last year.

There's 90,000 Australians underground, he said at the time.

Now you can't tell me there is anything good about war.