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April 25, 2005

ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC Day, the Australia-New Zealand equivalent to Memorial Day.

New Zealand Website on ANZAC Day.

The Australian Equivalent.

The Gallipoli Campaign was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, an attempt to force the Dardanelles and reach the Black Sea, freeing up the Russian Black Sea Fleet and opening up new routes of supply and a new thrust at the Austrians and Germans via the Balkans. Churchill really had the hots for the idea that Italy and the Balkans represented the "soft underbelly" of Europe. He was to be all for going in that way during WWII, as well. Gallipoli, along with the treatment and use of Commonwealth troops in France, marked the high tide of Britain's command and control of Commonwealth Forces. The propensity of British Generals to use non-UK troops for the really bloody work, while at the same time treating them as second-class citizens, caused the command relationships to be much different in WWII. Especially since, pound for pound, the Commonwealth soldiers were in main, better quality troops than those from the UK (exceptions on both sides abounding, of course). Like it or no, the colonials were, if nothing else, generally healthier than their UK counterparts.

Regardless, all the soldiers quality was oft-times squandered by execrable generalship.

In case there is any doubt how Australians felt about it, this picture is of the Sydney Memorial.


For the Turks? This was a moment of great pride for them, marking as it did the end of a long slide to obscurity and mediocrity, and cemented Ataturk's reforms and the establishment of a secular state - and gave the Army the imprimatur of the guardian of the state's secular nature - though that hasn't always gone well...

The Arsenal at Argghhh! has several items with an ANZAC connection. Our WWI-era Vickers machine gun is an ex-Turkish gun - and by the serial number is *not* one of the ones provided to Turkey in 1940 (to keep them neutral) but is in all probability a captured gun, reworked (the Turks were always tinkering with their weapons, trying to stretch their service life.

Hi-res, click here, here, here, and here.

Second, we have a M1893 Turkish Mauser, which is quite possibly (by age and ship date to Turkey) but unverifiably a Gallipoli vet. This rifle sports a Sanderson-made M1907 bayonet, captured by the Turks and reworked to fit the Mauser. We also have a 2nd Military District bayonet (Australian) that has been through the same treatment. Since invading at Gallipoli was a Brit idea, it's the Brit bayonet that hangs on the Turk rifle.

Hi-res, click here.

Last, but not least, are the dogtags. Body recovery being tough in the conditions under which the campaign at Gallipoli was fought, when Aussie troops went 'over the top' many would leave a bayonet or stick stuck in the sandbags or walls of the trench, with their dogtags hanging from 'em. If, after the battle, they were still there...

For the Commonwealth soldier, the equivalent of Taps is the Last Post.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam