Doug Arrowsmith's ANZAC Day speech

Doug Arrowsmith ANZAC Day speech

After the Nedlands RSL/City of Nedlands ANZAC Day service, some community members expressed a wish to be able to read Doug Arrowsmith's beautiful speech.

It is reproduced below in full. Thanks to Mr Arrowsmith and everyone involved in this community event.

It is an honour to be asked to give the address on this special anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. 

This centenary gives us the opportunity to reflect on the events surrounding WW1.  There have been a number of articles by historians questioning some of the popular views held for many years about the Gallipoli campaign and the ANZAC tradition that developed as a consequence. It is quite right to acknowledge that many more Australians died on the Western Front battlefields than in Turkey.

However our thoughts today turn mainly to the landing of our troops on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula, so I will confine my remarks to that part of our history. The name Gallipoli comes from the Greek word meaning “beautiful city”.  The region has seen many fierce battles over the centuries due to its strategic location.  The involvement of Australian  soldiers during the first world war was the most recent conflict in that area.

It has been thought by many, that the Gallipoli campaign was un-necessary and a sacrifice for many of our troops.  But in hindsight, I believe that those 8 months in Turkey had a great bearing on the ultimate result of World War 1.

Today is a very special day for our Nation.  It was 100 years ago that on the 25th April our soldiers together with men from New Zealand, Canada, France, India and Great Britain, landed on the Turkish beaches.   It has been said that that day was the birth of our Nation. There was a mixture of men from the various States. From this mixture a mateship developed and this has continued on through conflicts over the years. In my Lancaster Bomber crew there were chaps from three different States and I am sure this applied to all other Services.

For Australia  -   It all started with the assembling of troops at Albany and Fremantle to form a convoy expecting to go through the Suez Canal to Europe. They reached Aden and instead went into training near Cairo.  The reason why they did not proceed to England was that Russia, which was under dire straits, sought help from England and France.

Turkey joined the Central Powers, not to fight Britain and France, but to confront its oldest enemy, thus giving Russia a second front to defend.  Russia faced ruin, which would have meant hundreds of thousands of German troops being released to go to the West, and this could have meant defeat in the West for the Allies.

At the beginning of the war Russia had the biggest army in the world  - it had the impressive total of 5,000 guns - trouble was Russia did not make enough shells at the required rate to make those guns effective. By December 1914 Russia was down to about one weeks supply of what was needed.

So,  Britain and France had to aid Russia.  Sending troops from the West was not possible. The only way was by using part the large fleet of navy ships to bombard the Turkish forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles and thus gaining entrance through this narrow gap and then attacking Constantinople.   After a month of significant losses through shelling from the forts and losses from floating mines, which the Turks released in the outward flow of 2 to 2.5 knots through the straits, it was decided the shelling was a failure.

The next part was to send 70,000 troops to storm the beaches at Gallipoli. By then the Turks were well prepared.   It has been a common view that the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Corps was 2 kilometres from the intended place, which meant they were faced with high cliffs and many machine guns firing at them from strategic places to the unprotected beaches.  Whatever is the truth of the matter, this became known as ANZAC Cove, and the Anzac legend was born. 

The campaign went on for 8 months - there were 9 awards of the Victoria Cross, which is the highest award for valour in the face of the enemy.   Almost 9,000 Australians and 35,000 Allied troops were killed and the Turks lost 87,00O soldiers. Captain Throssell from Western Australia was one of those awarded with the VC. His award was for bravery at Hill 60 in late August, thereby becoming the only Light Horseman to be so honoured.  In heavy action, he fought on despite receiving numerous wounds, inspiring all others around him.  Even after his wounds were dressed he continued to fight.

 After 8 months it was decided to withdraw from Gallipoli and it was in this period that the Russians were able to become a force meaning that Germany could not release troops to go to the west.     So in a significant way the Gallipoli campaign had a great bearing on the result of World War 1.

It is commonly thought the withdrawal was a masterstroke of subterfuge, but did the Turks realise the withdrawal was on and were they happy to see them go?  Another subject for debate!
During the ill-fated 8 months of the campaign the men displayed courage, endurance, initiative, discipline and mateship.  They suffered terribly in the trenches and experienced horrors that no man should have to endure. This shared experience by men from all parts of Australia kindled the ANZAC Spirit, which we celebrate today. 

The ANZAC Spirit represents a sense of purpose and direction.  The original ANZACS   knew what they had to do, they knew of the dangers and the difficulties, but they persevered and did not let those difficulties stop them from obeying their orders.   We can apply this to our ever day lives.  We can show commitment in our working lives and engage in community service to make our country greater.

The ANZAC Spirit includes a sense of compassion.  This is summed up in the Australian experience as mateship.  This means to watch out for you mate at all times.     We should use these things  - a sense of purpose, acceptance of responsibility and unselfishness in whatever we do.  If we do this we will be helping to make sure the ANZAC Spirit is always part of life in Australia.

This is what a current serving officer has said about ANZAC Day -
"It's fitting to commemorate the beginning of that journey as a nation, but the wider sacrifice and service of soldiers, sailors and airmen in that 100 years is significant and I believe Anzac Day represents that."
And what of the Turks?  There is no sense of hatred towards the Australia. The Turkish nation has embraced the many Australians who have made the journey to Gallipoli to commemorate the campaign. There is no doubt that the Gallipoli campaign was a major military defeat for Australia and its allies, and it came at a tremendous human cost for our fledgling nation.   There is no doubt there were acts of bravery, sacrifice and mateship on both sides of the conflict.

The generosity of spirit of the Turkish people can be summed up by the quotation of Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish commander and later the first President of modern day Turkey.    It is found engraved in a stone tablet overlooking Anzac cove.
 Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives
 you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. 
 Therefore rest in peace. 
 There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets
 To us where they lie side by side in this country of ours.
 You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears;
 Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace,
 After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.