Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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Anzac Day Address 2011 at Cambrai Village
by Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD JP

WW1 was the first time Australians had fought as a Nation and not as a Colonial Outpost of England. It was on the slopes of Gallipoli where, Australian and New Zealand Troops distinguished themselves and from where the acronym ANZAC was created and where a characteristic known as “The Spirit of Anzac” was also created.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s almost impossible to say anything about the Anzac Legend that hasn’t already been said many times over the last 90 odd years. I thought I might approach the subject from a different perspective.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the term Esprit de Corps. It refers to that special bond that develops among men, and women, who serve in a common cause in our Country’s Armed Services, especially in time of peril. This Spirit has existed as long as there have been Armies.

It was greatly enhanced on the bloody and horrific battlefields on the Western Front in WW1. This was where an Australian Commander Sir John Monash, insisted that Australian troops fight as Australian Units or formations and were no longer deployed as mere attachments to British Units.

This is the point where we should reflect on the birth if the acronym ANZAC. It stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It was in the 25 of April 1915 that, as part of an Allied invasion fleet, ships approached the western coast of Turkey. The British troops were dropped at Suvla Bay in the north and Cape Helles on the southern tip of Turkey. The Aussies were delivered to the shore at a location known as Anzac Cove. It was originally intended that they would be landed further south. Anzac Cove was a dreadful feature to try to invade and land upon. It has steep cliffs and this area particularly favoured the defenders. This was a location far better suited to defence than a landing. The only favourable comments about this area, was that if the Australians could get ashore safely, cross the narrow beach and get themselves hard against the high ground, the Turks could not depress their fire and hit the sheltering troops. It is well know that after 8 months surviving in that area, the most successful withdrawal (evacuation) in military history occurred and the entire Australian force managed to withdraw from that area, with no further loss of life and without the Turks discovering they were departing.

The War letters of General (Later Sir) John Monash provide a description of part of the planning of the withdrawal from Gallipoli. The withdrawal was carried out with secrecy and in silence. There was much planning involved, but, one of the main parts of the deception plan was the rigging of rifles with a simple but clever device for firing a rifle automatically. It was done by allowing a tin of water to fill slowly with water until it overbalanced, fell and jerked a sting which fired the rifle. 10 rifles were set across the front and when the last men left their respective trenches, the devices were rigged to fire at 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute intervals. This gave the impression that the trenches were occupied, when in fact, the troops from that area were now well away and, hopefully, boarding the boats to take them to ships to spirit them from the area. To achieve silent movement the men wrapped hessian around their boots.


I want to give you two anecdotes relevant to this campaign.

• I knew an old man (Rueben Leyland by name) who was in the trenches Gallipoli. He was from Collie and was a crack rifle shot. You should understand that the Allied front and the Turkish front in this area, was less that 100 metres apart. There was a Turk in the trenches opposite. They knew his routine and he knew theirs. Each party had no personal quarrel with the other. They were only there because a Government, some where, had decreed that they should be there. This particular Turk, used to have a morning routine of stretching and gobbling his food and then get into his firing position with his rifle pointing in the Allies direction (as theirs were pointed in his). Then some new men arrived in the Allies trenches. They were not familiar with this Turks morning routine and when he got up and stretched, he was shot. Rueb Layland who told me this story, said he was upset at the death of his enemy. Strange but true.

• One Australian patrol had successfully penetrated beyond the cliff face and inland. They chanced upon a group of Turkish soldiers, commanded by one Lt Kamal. The Turks were boy soldiers, some as young as 14 and they were out of ammunition. Lt Kamal ordered his soldiers to adopt the firing position. The Aussies did the same, not knowing that the Turks were pointing rifles at them which had no ammunition. This produced inaction, until the Turks received reinforcement and a resupply of ammunition. That Turkish commander later became the first President of Turkey - Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. Mustafa Kamal Ataturk was a great statesman. At a memorial on the shore of the Dardanelles the following tribute, which was written by Ataturk around 1934, is displayed -
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. ………..... 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.

For over 80 years Anzac Day has been commemorated, not only in the major cities of our Great Nation, but, in towns and schools across the length and breadth of our country.

Our Country has always ensured that wherever possible our fallen comrades have a decent burial and through the efforts of The Australian War Graves Commission the bodies of Australians who have died in Battle are interred in beautifully maintained Cemeteries throughout the World. You may remember recently some 250 bodies were recovered from a mass grave near the site of the Battle of Fromelles. Thanks to the wonders of modern science and DNA analysis 96 have been identified and reinterred in a new Cemetery at Fromelles.

However, it is reassuring to note the increased attendance in Anzac Day commemorations by many young people. This has shown a steady progression over recent years at Dawn and Main Anzac Day Services. Quite rightly the nature of Anzac Day observances has been extended to include WW2, Malaya, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor and The Solomons.

This means that in Australia we will continue to honour the memory of our “fallen sons and daughters” who have paid the supreme sacrifice. This is not intended to glorify War, but to acknowledge those who laid down their lives that we can continue to enjoy our way of life.

It is worth noting that in the campaign on the Gallipoli peninsular which I referred to earlier, it is estimated that the Allies put around half a million men into Turkey and of them 46,000 died. Many more were wounded. However, it is worth noting that it is estimated that over 250,000 Turks became casualties.

Such is the futility of War.

We can let them rest in peace, wherever they may be throughout the world, knowing that:-

“We will remember them.
Lest We Forget”


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