Who I’m remembering today

Today Australia and New Zealand commemorates ANZAC DAY.

April 25th is the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The soldiers in those forces became known as ANZACS.

Over the past 100 years, and over the many battles since the 2015 landing at Gallipoli, the name ANZAC has come to mean courage, pride, mateship, sacrifice and is a big part of our national identity.

Granddad’s medals

There are many, many tragic and inspirational war stories. Today is a day to remember those men and women who have put their lives on the line or lost their lives fighting for their country.

The Australian War Memorial website sums up the development of the ANZAC spirit here:

When war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federated nation for only 13 years, and the new federal government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. When Britain declared war in August 1914 Australia was automatically placed on the side of the Commonwealth. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. More than 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. The Gallipoli campaign had a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

My grandfather, Corporal Victor Vickers
photo 4
My sister wearing our granddad’s medals at Coogee Beach’s dawn service this morning. She is holding a photo of our great grandfather “Pop” Morris Sallmann on his horse during WWI.

Today I am remembering:

  • My grandfather, Corporal Victor Vickers, who fought in the Middle East during WWII. When he enlisted at the ripe old age of 36 he was considered “an older soldier”. He survived the war but co-incidentally died on ANZAC Day 1995 at the age of 90.
  • My great-uncle Lieutenant John Gordon who was shot dead on the Kokoda Trail during WWII. One of his men had been shot and injured by a sniper. John went to rescue the injured soldier, but in doing so, he was also shot – in the head. Included in the package of personal items sent home were his shattered glasses. There is a poppy beside John’s name at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
  • My great-uncle Rupert Vickers who fought on the Western Front during WWI. His mother had 7 children, which meant the eldest fought in WWI and the second-youngest (granddad) in WWII.
  • My great great-uncle Major George Macarthur-Onslow, who fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front, but died of Spanish Flu after returning home.
  • My great-grandfather Lieutenant Morris Sallmann, a horse-breeder from Victoria who was a sergeant in the veterinary unit on the Western Front in 1916. He developed Trench Fever and had to be invalided home.

Lest we forget.

Another reason to remember today: as I mentioned, my grandfather died on ANZAC Day in Armidale, NSW.  Today is also my ex-husband’s birthday. He was born on ANZAC Day, co-incidentally, in the same town my grandfather lived and died in. So happy birthday to Spider Boy’s dad.

Who are you remembering today?

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