Great War Took a Huge Toll; Australian Character Forged on Battlefields

Article excerpt

WE WILL REMEMBER

What: Remembrance Day

When: Monday, November 11 at 10.40am

Where: Warwick Cenotaph

John Skinner

Contributor

REMEMBRANCE Daycelebrates the end of what was called The Great War, in 1918 after four years of heavy fighting throughout Europe and many other parts of the world.

Knowing what we know now, it is hard to believe Australians greeted the outbreak of war with considerable enthusiasm at the time.

Even before Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, the nation pledged its support alongside other states of the British Empire and almost immediately began preparations to send forces overseas to participate in the conflict.

Men from throughout the country, particularly from rural areas, flocked to recruiting stations almost immediately and most said it was because they didn't want to miss any of the action. It was commonly believed the war would be over in months, not years.

Women too volunteered, particularly as nurses, and they too were soon on their way overseas to support the men.

The first campaign Australians were involved in was in German New Guinea after a hastily raised force known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force was dispatched from Australia to seize German possessions in the Pacific in September 1914.

At the same time another expeditionary force, initially consisting of 20,000 men and known as the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF), was raised for service overseas.

The AIF departed Australia in November 1914 and, after several delays due to the presence of German naval vessels in the Indian Ocean, arrived in Egypt, where they were initially used to defend the Suez Canal.

In early 1915, however, it was decided to carry out an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula with the goal of opening up a second front and securing the passage of the Dardanelles.

The Australians and New Zealanders, grouped together as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), went ashore on 25 April 1915 and for the next eight months the Anzacs, alongside their British, French and other allies, fought a costly and ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the Turks.

The force was evacuated from the peninsula in December 1915 and returned to Egypt.

In early 1916 it was decided that the infantry divisions would be sent to France, where they took part in many of the major battles fought on the Western Front. …