The ANZAC legend is many things to many people, to me the legend is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago, it is embedded in our DNA, it is who we are as a nation. The Anzac Legend is the Australian Spirit.
This Anzac spirit has changed little over the past 95 years, the fundamental appeal and Spirit of the ANZAC legend is as relevant and strong today as it was on the day it was born, 25th April 1915, they were united under a common flag, a common emblem and a common outlook.
Over the ensuing 8 months of fighting at Gallipoli the Anzac legend, took hold and became a badge of honour, a rite of passage and an unwritten guide of Digger qualities and expectations.
Simply put the Anzac Spirit is, helping your mate out, regardless of the consequences and knowing that your mate will do the same if the situation was reversed, it’s doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
The ANZAC legend is confronting the difficult facts of our situation, whether as a combatant, POW or support staff. It is showing initiative to do whatever is required to achieve a goal or objective and knowing that we will survive and thrive in the end regardless of the difficulties.
It is overcoming overwhelming odds and atrocious conditions; it is turning the impossible into the possible. It is about the ability to push past ones perceived limitations and to achieve greater outcomes.
It is about perseverance, resilience, tenacity and persistence, never giving up, no matter how impossible it seems or how difficult the task.
It is about trust, tradition, integrity and respect for each other, dependence on each other, keeping your word, not letting your mates, family or others down, the ability to never give up, and self belief, to hang in there when all seems lost.
Perhaps General Cosgrove best sums it up. We are real people. Australians automatically form teams. We can’t see another Australian without feeling an immediate and strong sense of identity. You’ve automatically got a team. We instinctively trust each other until something happens to say that trust was misplaced. ‘And that’s why Australians are, almost as a fundamental premise, so good when they put a military uniform on.
The ANZAC legend did not suddenly and magically manifest itself on that fateful dawn 95 years ago but has been forged out of desperation and necessity since our Nation was founded in misery and despair over 200 years ago.
Our founding fathers showed the initial qualities of this unique Spirit and needed to draw strength and mutual support from the other inhabitants, just to survive in this new and unforgiving land.
Strength of Character and resolve was necessary to survive in this new land, with the vastness of distance, harshness of the terrain and violent an unpredictable weather.
Those that did not adapt to the conditions and environment of this new land, failed and perished.
Our early settlers took an early dislike for unnecessary restrictions and authority and dismissed anyone that was seen to be disruptive or counterproductive to progress and survival. This Australian indifference to authority would be viewed later on by some British military authorities as undisciplined and difficult to manage.
The Australian Soldiers character was viewed initially as an undesirable quality, but those that were close to the Australians soon realise that behind this veil of contempt for authority lay a dedicated and tenacious fighter that was more concerned in getting the job done as uncomplicated and efficiently as possible.
Australia has a strong reputation in both war and sport and we have a tradition of turning to sport to hone the skills, competitiveness and fitness of our service personal and to lift their spirit and morale. This involvement in sport contributed to our higher level of physical fitness, robustness and emphasis on the importance of teams.
The early characteristics and spirit were born out of necessity, needed to survive and thrive in this new land. The difficult environment and frequent natural disasters of fire, flood and drought made it necessary for our forebears to rely on each other to assist each other to survive. Australians adapted better to their environment, they knew how to live rough.
This reliance on each other forged the bonds and character of our nation to volunteer for service, believing that volunteering and helping your neighbour or mate was the right thing to do.
There was also a shared sense of camaraderie and reliance on each, the separation and vastness of the land helped develop our laconic and sardonic sense of humour, our toughness, our ability to cope with difficult and uncomfortable situations and our casual dismissal of danger.
Australia has a rich and proud military tradition, beginning well before the Anzacs first landed at Gallipoli when four companies of Marines totalling 212 men arrived with the first fleet in Sydney in 1788.
It is ironic that our first Australian to be killed in a foreign war happened in the land of our ANZAC partner New Zealand during the Maori wars in 1863.
Our tradition of volunteering for service continued in 1885, when our first true Australian Military Force was raised to assist the British in the Sudan, and continued into the Boer wars where the British Command commented favorably on the dash, courage and initiative of the Australians.
The legend of the Australian Soldier was born; soon that legend would enter Australian Folk Lore at Gallipoli.
The traditions of the Anzac legend were built around the Digger on the frontline, but these qualities and traditions apply equally to those unsung heroes that played important and sometimes overlooked roles in supporting the fighting machine.
The cooks, drivers, stretcher bearers, transport drivers, Doctors, nurses, mechanics, coast watchers, transport pilots and communication people.
There is a lesser known Australian hero that is rarely mentioned or noticed, the Australian woman of those times.
They were the back bone of our country. They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into the work that was traditionally done by the men folk, they kept the house, fed, clothed and educated the children.
When their sick and injured men returned from war, they patched them up and nursed them back to health, with dignity, respect and without complaint or thinking about themselves, it’s just what they did.
The original Anzac legend has varied only slightly over the years with the original Anzacs fighting for King, country and the Empire; it is without a doubt that the ANZAC legend is fundamentally unchanged and relevant today.
While today’s Defence Force mission is no longer to fight for King or Empire, but to defend Australia and ensure the security of its people and national interests are protected, our service personal continue to display all the characteristics of the Anzac legend.
This ANZAC legend can be seen in the pride and commitment of our present day diggers, who no longer fight for King or Empire but for Australia, its people and its National interests.
The traditions and values of those original ANZACS has been handed down to every service personal that has served our country in any capacity and any field.
The ANZAC characteristic or spirit is fundamentally an Australian Spirit; it is who we are as a nation. It can be seen every day in, everyday Australians, suburban neighbour hoods, sporting fields, places of Academia and Science.
The men and woman of the Anzac legend have done much with their lives, their sacrifice and service we are forever grateful, and while we continue to talk about them and remember their deeds their spirit will live forever.
Never forget the Anzac legend and spirit is the core characteristics and values of our nation, be proud of our Nations achievements and those that have served and continue to serve our country.
The ANZAC legend is very much alive, and the spirit of those Anzacs lives inside me and you.
LEST WE FORGET