27 February 2008
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
As most who know who pass through here, one of my passions is genealogy. It is a rather dramatic quirk of Scottish history that for a variety of reasons, both coerced and voluntary, they have spread throughout the world, particularly to British possessions. For some reason Mungo Bisset packed up his wife and seven children some time after 1854 and headed to the southern hemisphere. As a result, their descendants have lived ever since in Australia and New Zealand. Because of this move, many of them ended up in an unpleasant place called Gallipoli, and one nurse never returned home. ANZAC Cemetery Turkey.
If you have never read any of the history of Australia much beyond "Isn't that where the English sent convicts?", or seen a movie called Gallipoli, you may not know the singular importance of this event in creating a national identity. When war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only fourteen years. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. As a result of poor planning, ignorance of command officers, and failure to recognize the changes that had taken place in modern siege warfare, what had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.
War is never wonderful. This was one of the times, unfortunately not the last, when incompetent leaders led to the slaughter of thousands while thousands more paid for those mistakes with a lifetime of crippling wounds.