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Thread: An ANZAC in my street - 100 years ago today

  1. #1
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    An ANZAC in my street - 100 years ago today

    I will admit to being a bit cynical about the 'ANZACization' of Australian history, and some aspects of the Centenary celebrations. There are, however, times when even an old cynic like me is given pause to think.

    One of the more impressive achievements of the Centenary commemoration is this huge digital archive. You can search for people who served in WW1 by name, unit, street or suburb. It is worth a look.

    https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/index.html

    I put in my street name and found 2 names of men who served. By looking through the suburb records for Abbotsford I found 4 more (my street name is commonly misspelled). The residential part of my street is barely 100 metres (it was a bit longer in 1914) and is full of 4 meter wide terrace houses. It provided 6 young men to the Australian Imperial Force. The surrounding streets provided dozens more, including one from a house that backs onto mine.

    Exactly 100 years ago today a young man who lived a few houses down from me departed on the troop ship Benalla. He was a 21 year old single painter and was probably an English immigrant (his next of kin was in England). It is likely that he was a boarder. He was in the 8th Battalion AIF. He was one of the men who waded ashore at ANZAC Cove on April 25, 1915. They seized the high ground held by Turkish forces. Two weeks later his unit was sent to Cape Helles on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula to assist English troops in the First Battle of Krithia. This brave young man died on July 9, 1915, most likely in the Third Battle of Krithia - over 15,000 lives lost over a few hundred metres of ground. He is buried in a cemetery in Helles, Turkey. Such a waste.

    A year later another man from the same house enlisted, a 33 year old man with a wife in England. He saw service on the Western Front and returned to Australia where he died in 1940 aged 60. Another young man from the house next door enlisted in 1916. Two other men from exactly across the street had enlisted in early 1915. A few meters of one little street in Melbourne. Remarkable. Moving.

    I suppose that is what they mean by 'history coming alive'.
    Last edited by Bigfella; 19 Oct 14, at 11:48.


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    Hey big fella. My dad's old man was RNZAF on Guadalcanal. Nothing heroic, he loaded bombs on Crappy fighter bombers during the shitty part of that battle. Got bombed to hell on a regular basis, and used to tell me when he was drunk about columns of slumped over marines coming back from the front like zombies. Not fun eh?

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    Hey big fella. My dad's old man was RNZAF on Guadalcanal. Nothing heroic, he loaded bombs on Crappy fighter bombers during the shitty part of that battle. Got bombed to hell on a regular basis, and used to tell me when he was drunk about columns of slumped over marines coming back from the front like zombies. Not fun eh?
    I think most folk who served spent a lot of tie doing nothing. A mate of mine who was an occasional contributor here had a father who spent most of the war on Godenough island, between PNG & New Britain somewhere. He spent the first half of his time getting bombed by Japanese forces based at Rabaul & the second half of his time sending planes off to bomb Rabaul. Not fun indeed.

    One of the eerie resonances in the story I told in the OP was that the young man had the same first name as my grandfather. Grandad lived about one kilometre from where I live now & was drafted in 1941. He was a cook on the Kokoda track. He saw some bad stuff, but never saw a shot fired in anger. He got sick & was invalided home. His older brother was an Engineer & spent the war bouncing around PNG. His younger brother was in the 2/29th Battalion. He was a bren gunner. he fought the Japanese at Maur River in Malaya, where he & some of his men were cut off. Their successful efforts to break through Japanese lines earned him the nickname 'the mad Irishman'. They retreated to Singapore where they were captured in 1942. he ended up in Changi & then on the 'Death Railway'. In the end something like half the men who fought in the battalion died during the war & I'm betting many more had dramatically shortened lives.

    No fun indeed.


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    Hell seeing as we're on war stories... My mothers uncle somehow ended up with the BEF in France. Got captured during the blitzkrieg and spent five years in a POW camp. He was a very strange man, prone to chanting his prisoner number after a few drinks, in German. He told me about hiding in a flooded quarry while American bombers smashed everything around him. War is not good for those involved.

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    That is acool site. Do the poms have a similar one?

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Thought I would give this a bump. It is 100 years ago today that Walter Morgan, the young man from my street, waded ashore at ANZAC Cove. In fact, it was probably happening as I post. A few weeks later he was dead, along with thousands of other young men from Australia, New Zealand, France, Britain, Turkey & probably even Germany. Such sadness.


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    Agreed Big.

    Agreed.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    tankie Military Professional tankie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samuels creek View Post
    That is acool site. Do the poms have a similar one?
    Rochen ,,,pom owners


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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Galipoli is a pilgrimage site for Aussies & Kiwis. yet you served in many wars after.

    So why does WW1 dominate everything ?

    Does it mark the start of deployments abroad as well as celebrate the sacrifices of all since.

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    WWI was when Australia and Canada exerted their independence. Wheras before, our regiments were slotted to fill in British divisions and corps, for the first time in our histories, we fought as an Australian Army and a Canadian Army under our own generals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Galipoli is a pilgrimage site for Aussies & Kiwis. yet you served in many wars after.

    So why does WW1 dominate everything ?

    Does it mark the start of deployments abroad as well as celebrate the sacrifices of all since.
    I can only talk for Australia, so I'll do my best. Unfortunately there is a lot of mythology mixed in, which I'll try my best to deal with.

    Australia gained its independence in 1901 (January 1). it wasn't 100% full independence - we were a dominion, which meant Britain had some influence over our foreign policy and a few other things. We achieved it by a series of votes and conventions - not exactly the stuff of romantic 'birth of a nation' stuff. As it happened we were already at war in Sth Africa as separate colonies, and subsequently sent troops as a national force. However, this doesn't seem to have captured the imagination much. When WW1 began we still thought of ourselves as 'British', but a different sort of British to the people in the 'old country'.

    Many people saw WW1 as an opportunity to 'prove ourselves' as a nation. A chance to show Britain that we would do our bit. Initial plans to raise a force of about 20,000 troops here had to be revised upward due to the speed & scale of people volunteering. Those numbers combined with our Kiwi cousins made an independent Corps viable. As OOE said, we had our own officers, though ultimately under British command. Gallipoli was both a source of pride and shock at the time. Pride that we had shown ourselves to be the equal of British & other forces, shock at the scale & speed of lives lost. It was the start of a 4 year long national trauma - the first great shared experience of the new nation and one that had greater reach & impact than Federation. From a population of 5 million 330,000 men served, 250,000 or so were wounded and another 65,000 killed. That is about twice the total number of Australians killed in other wars (WW2 by comparison was 27,000). For a nation that was still in its teens this had a profound impact. Only about 9,000 of those dead were at Gallipoli, but they were the first of the war.

    Even before Gallipoli was evacuated the myth making began. The idea of 'birth of a nation' was widely circulated - the shared sacrifice finally bound disparate colonies into a nation. This was & is exaggerated, but there is still truth to it. It was also the birth of the idea of Australians as 'super soldiers', a conceit not limited to our nation. Roll the pride in having 'proved ourselves', the 'first great undertaking of a young nation' and the sense of sacrifice and you have the building blocks of the significance of ANZAC & Gallipoli.

    I'm less able to explain why it has been revived over the past 2 decades. With WW2 & then the rebellion of the Vietnam War generation against what they saw as 'militarism' the power of the mythology faded a bit. However, ANZAC ay remained a national holiday to commemorate the living and the dead. Every year veterans parade. I recall watching it on TV as a kid - we all did. If you had gone to Gallipoli 30 years ago on ANZAC Day you would have been all but alone. The first visit there by an Australian PM on ANZAC Day was in 1990. I think a combination of cheap travel and, a resurgent interest in issues of 'Australian identity' and some fairly concerted (and inexcusably expensive) attempt by governments to reconfigure our identity around military events (Kokoda & ANZAC) has revived interest.

    I suspect a part of this is the passing of the last great generation who fought. Some 550,000 Australians served overseas in WW2 (and 1 million in total served in uniform). About a fifth that number have fought in wars since, and one of those was not very popular. That is my grandparent's generation, and they are rapidly dying out. I think at some level there is an attempt to replace the living link to that part of our past with a more passionate engagement in its history. Only a part, however.

    I've probably confused you more than helped. I'll try to answer any specific questions.


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    Gallipolli in yours, Vimy Ridge in mine. In both incidences, through a critical eye, they amount to nothing strategically but yet, the myth was borned that the Dominions were the equals of the British and in turn gave voice to our power.

    But I found another myth coming about. That Canadians were Peacekeepers and never soldiers after WWII. Most didn't even know about the Korean War nor of any of the combat we've seen during our "Peacekeeping" tours. I actually found it insulting that this man took pride that we were never soldiers. And he found it insulting when I told him that we were a WWIII army.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    ok, so its the scale of the casualties that makes WW1 stand out, more than the rest put together.

    The next question is how did it become your war ? why should so many volunteer to sign up. When i watched the movie of the same name there was a sense of romanticism followed by a cruel awakening on the battle field.

    what was the threat to Australia. WW1 was more a euro war that sucked in people from colonies. I was less of a 'world' war than the one that followed.

    i visited Gallipoli in '89 with a bunch of Aussies & Kiwis. The company was called Top Deck. They're still around. So it did matter even then.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    ok, so its the scale of the casualties that makes WW1 stand out, more than the rest put together.

    The next question is how did it become your war ? why should so many volunteer to sign up. When i watched the movie of the same name there was a sense of romanticism followed by a cruel awakening on the battle field.

    what was the threat to Australia. WW1 was more a euro war that sucked in people from colonies. I was less of a 'world' war than the one that followed.

    i visited Gallipoli in '89 with a bunch of Aussies & Kiwis. The company was called Top Deck. They're still around. So it did matter even then.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Same question to OOE. What made WW1 your fight ? another far flung outpost out of range.

    if you're newly independent it seems not to have sunk in yet.

    The brits had a tough time arm twisting the americans into it and they only made an entrance in 1917.

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