(Never forget Australia)
World War 1 was horrifying to everyone involved. From 1914-1918 about 65 million men battled, with 8 million never returning home. More than half the men who returned were wounded. This was an extremely hard time for Australia. It was filled with melancholy, loss and great struggle. It was also a major period of change, our national identity was beginning to evolve and the concepts of leadership and responsibility were being debated.
After Gallipoli, the British High Command needed troops immediately. So on May 5, the veterans of Gallipoli recuperating in Egypt, they were sent to France to battle Germany on the Western Front.
An important battle for the ANZACs was the first battle of Bullecourt in April, 1917. The Australian infantry had managed to seize and hold, temporarily, a huge part of the German line without any artillery support. But, the attack cost around 3000 casualties and made the Australian infantry extremely worried about the value of their battlefield tanks, as they had failed to break through the wire.
One of the leaders of the attack, Major Percy Black, called to his men “Come on boys, bugger the tanks!’ and charged right towards the wire. His men followed and battled their way into the German trenches. They were the first soldiers to ever break through the Hindenburg line. Major Black was found dead on the wire. He was a perfect example of a man with the courage the ANZAC spirit. His courage and faithlessness will always be remembered.
Another major battle for the ANZACs was the Battle of Passchendaele, also called the Third Battle of Ypre. The aim of this battle was to gain control of Passchendaele from the German’s. It was a long, intense and demoralising battle, both physically and mentally. It lasted from the 31st of July, 1917 until the 6th of November, 1917. By the time the battle had concluded, the combined allied casualties reached almost a quarter of a million, with the German’s losing the same amount. Up to 95,000 Australian men remained unidentified of which 42,000 were never found.
One of the most memorable occasions the ANZACs fought on the Wester Front was when the German’s viciously attacked the French village of Villers-Bretonneux on the night of 25th of April 1918, exactly three years after the landing at Gallipoli. That night the ANZACs counter-attacked. A British General called this attack ‘perhaps one of the greatest feats of the war. ’ This counter-attack turned out to be one of the greatest things the ANZACs have done.’ 1200 Australians were killed saving the village.
The French were extremely thankful for what the ANZACs had done and named local buildings and places after them. The named the local college after the state of Victoria and it has “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Never forget Australia) above every blackboard. The main street of Villers-Bretonneux is called ‘Melbourne Road’ and a restaurant which goes by the name of ‘The Kangaroo.’ There is also an Australian National Memorial site at Villers-Bretonneux now, and the Australian flag is still flown every day, and on ANZAC Day it is a major site of commemoration.
‘He is all of them. And he is one of us.
There was no specific Australian soldier who stood above the rest. No one knows individual names, ages, ranks, where they were born or where they died. All we know is that each one of the 45,000 Australian’s that died on the Western Front was one of the 416,000 that volunteered their service in the horrific war. The ‘Unknown Soldier’ commemorates the memory of every person who gave up their lives for our country and has not been able to be given a personal identified rest place. A reminder of the sacrifice given when soldiers they go to war.
Near the end of the war, there weren’t many ANZACs left to hold the trenches. The Germans noticed this and counter-attacked from three different sides, causing the ANZACs to withdraw.