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ANZAC day calendar    Apr 24, 2024

ANZAC Day 2024

Reflecting on the bravery and sacrifice of ANZAC troops at the Battle of the Nek.

The Battle of the Nek was fought on 7 August 1915 between the ANZAC troops and Turks. It was one of those battles that exemplified courage and selfless sacrifice. It was a battle that also pointed towards modern Australia’s collective value set.   

The Nek was a strip of land which was important for the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli. It was agreed that naval bombardment would provide cover and stop at exactly 4:30am; at which point, the men of the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments would go over the top and launch a ground offensive.  

For some unknown reason, the naval bombardment stopped at 423am. 

Without additional instruction, the offices of the Light Horse Regiments, followed their orders; at 4:30am charged straight into a prepared Turkish rifle and machine-gun onslaught.   

The 8th Light Horse Regiment took the lead, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Henry White. In a matter of minutes, they suffered 234 casualties and 154 fatalities. Following them, the 10th Light Horse Regiment, navigated through their fallen brothers and suffered 138 casualties and 80 fatalities.  Within 45 minutes, the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were decimated. 

In total three waves of men, -young men with mothers and fathers, wives, girlfriends, kids or relations in Australia- got up, obeyed orders despite the clear odds against them and courageously went over the top.    

Charles Bean believed that this act would go down as one of the bravest acts in the history of Australians at war, noting:  

The Nek could be seen crowded with their bodies. At first here and there a man raised his arm to the sky or tried to drink from his water bottle. But as the sun climbed higher … such movement ceased. Over the whole summit the figures lay still in the quivering sun.” 

In my view, the acts of those brave, courageous and selfless men at the Nek exemplify the foundations on which Modern Australia sit. They knew their fate. They knew what laid before them. They knew they were likely to never see their families, friends, or Australian soil again. Despite this, they knew their duty. They knew that the country they were defending was a country of opportunity, freedom, courage and respect. A country worthy of defending. A country where the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment would not stand back and watch his men face their fate; but rather, be the first over the top. The first to sacrifice his life for the sake of his men, his country and his beliefs.  

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Henry White, of the 8th Light Horse Regiment, actions at the Nek were not popular amongst the military hierarchy. They went against all normal practice, but I think they were bang-on when it comes to the Australian way. We have never been a country where hierarchy is praised. We like our prime ministers drinking beer and sitting in bay 13. We like our leaders to be real people not machines reading off scripts. Leadership in Australia is contrarian.  

The events in the last year have brought into stark light, fractures in our social complex. There are big issues which remain unaddressed. There are major cracks appearing in our social fabric. Topics that deserve serious, respectful and careful consideration became political point scoring events. We have leaders that refuse to lead, a political system that is quickly becoming a farse and a country that is at risk of being divided.   

The sacrifices made by men like Herbert Stanley, aged 20, Geoffrey Howell, aged 25, Ernest Penny, aged 22, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander White, aged 33, are at risk of being forgotten. 

Australia today is a vastly different Australia to what it was in 1915. We are a diverse, beautiful, and multicultural country. We serve as a beacon of hope for so many and a beautiful representation of what is possible. Yet, in my view, we are at a precipice. It's a time where we as a nation either embrace our nationhood or risk becoming a diaspora of cultures.    

The modern Australia has been -and will always be- built on the shoulders of those who have sacrificed everything, for us to have something. ANZAC day is a time to reflect upon the diversity of our modern nation; a time to reflect upon the deep history of our land; a time to reflect upon the values that underpin our great nation. Values of sacrifice, respect, honour, freedom, and equality. 

On this ANZAC day, I will be thankful for the modern Australia and the sacrifice of those who gave everything so we can have something, but I will also be reflecting on the values that they embodied that would unite our nation should we choose to embrace them.  

Lest we forget.     

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ANZAC Day 2024

ANZAC Day 2024

Reflecting on the bravery and sacrifice of ANZAC troops at the Battle of the Nek.