SPEECH FOR ANZAC DAY, THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002.
On this day 87 years ago, in the breaking morning twilight, a flare burst above a narrow beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Dardanelle Straits signifying the commencement of an assault by forces of the British Empire and France against Turkey during WW1. Troops of the 1st Australian Division were the first ashore at ANZAC Cove, as it is now known, followed closely by the New Zealand and Australian Division. They were met with fierce resistance and in the ensuing nine months, the Turks, during a campaign that would result in 252,000 casualties, would repel Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Indian forces. It was during this campaign that the term ANZAC was coined, a term that today is synonymous with joint Australian and New Zealand endeavours.
ANZAC Day is to Kiwis and Aussies as the 4th of July is to the Americans; it is now regarded as a defining moment in our respective national consciences. Many think of it as the day when we came of age and accepted that, as nations, we had to fend for ourselves and bear the full consequences of our actions. For at the time of outbreak of war, Australia was a very young nation - only 14 years old. Certainly federation had been achieved, a document signed, and a parliament assembled. But there had been no selfless act of valour, and no unifying event to bring the nation together. The young men of the day had had drilled into them by history, legend, verse, story and song that real nationhood is forged in battle. Within nine months of the outbreak of the great war, this forging had been done, and done with a vengeance, on the shores of Gallipoli commencing on 25 Apr 1915. .
The task given to the Australian and New Zealand troops who made up the ANZAC Corps, was to land on a beach in Turkey, attack and capture the peninsular. .
Instead of finding the flat beach they expected, they found they had been landed at the incorrect position and faced steep cliffs and constant barrages of enemy fire and shelling.