A COMPETITION FOR
YEAR 9 AND 10 STUDENTS
Fintona Girls’ School
What does an investigation of
primary sources reveal about the
Gallipoli experience and to what
extent does this explain the origins
of the ANZAC Legend?
Fintona Girls’ School
“The average Australian will stand up to his job and see it through, or go down in the attempt, and it is humanly
impossible to do more.”
[Private H V Reynolds 1 Field Ambulance, AIF]
The defining moment on the dawn of April 25th, 1915 saw Australia become a Nation recognized inter-
nationally as “the little country that could”. Seen as a moment of nationhood in which Australia proved
its potential to the world and to its people, the stories of selflessness, heroism and audacity from thou-
sands of men produced the ANZAC Legend in which we, as a Nation, annually commemorate practical-
ly a century later. ANZAC Day both mourns the loss of the fallen and celebrates not the success of the
battle itself but the spirit, mate-ship and larrikinism of the ANZAC which is echoed in the Australian
Primary sources provide first-hand experiences and evidence in their original forms that were created
at the time and are often used for historical analysis. However, primary sources such as diary entries
and paintings represent individual views in which can be influenced by many personal factors. An
investigation into primary sources provides valuable insight into the environment, the physical and
mental conditions, and most importantly reveal errors in which can be used to ensure that these are
not repeated, all of which can be placed under the heading of the ANZAC Experience.
One of the most significant mistakes of the Gallipoli campaign was due to the lack of detailed plan-
ning. As the original landing plans were based on a map approximately 60 years old, the British failed to
notice entire contours were missing and did not include locations of Turkish defences such as barriers
of barbed wire, Trenches and Machinegun pits. Arriving at the beach approximately 2 kilometres north
of the planned landing site, soldiers were met with steep cliff faces.
“…scrambling up these gravelly and almost perpendicular crags by any foothold which offered.”
[C.E.W Bean, ‘The story of Anzac’]
It is Primary sources such as the original landing map that inform, support and explain theories to
reveal the true Gallipoli Experience. Primary sources come in various forms; official records state that
2013 Winner Victoria Jessica Greenan Fintona Girls’ School 1
Private James Charles Martin, 14, was the youngest Australian to die in Gallipoli. However he was not
wounded, but succumbed to Typhoid.
“..we are here facing something at the present, very much more dangerous and powerful than the enemy in his
trenches opposite, that is sickness and disease…”
[Private H V Reynolds 1 Field Ambulance, AIF]
After contracting Typhoid in the trenches, Martin began to develop symptoms but constantly refused
treatment. Eventually, two weeks later, he was sent to HMHS Glenart Castle, a hospital ship. On the 25th
October 1915 he died of heart failure at the age of 14 and nine months. Of the 213,000 British Casualties
in Gallipoli, 145,000 were due to illness or disease.
With the support of primary sources from ANZAC soldiers who participated in the battle of Gallipoli,
records can be confirmed. From these records, historians can then begin to piece together the Gallipoli
Though most Australians felt at home with hot climate as they lived in rural areas, the snow truly tested
them - with only their summer clothes, worn-boots and lice infested blankets, many men froze to death
at their posts.
“The weather is very broken and it makes things very miserable in the trench, when you are wet through, for you
never undress, and you don’t have a change of clothes.”……………….......
Poor sanitation lead to a plague of flies which flourished amongst the hot weather and rotting bodies.
Their monotonous diets of bully beef, otherwise known as corn-beef, stale biscuits, jam and tea re-
sulted in low immune systems and ultimately caused thousands of men to contact dysentery, diarrhoea
“In the morning we get a piece of bacon, a pint of tea and hard biscuits, perhaps a loaf of bread. For dinner, we
have water, tea and sugar, and for tea we have bully beef stew.” …………………………………………………………
……………………………………..…… [Sapper V. Willey]
Historians are constantly engaging in controversy as to whether the true sequence of events has been
manipulated over time – but does it truly matter? Do Australians need to know the “truth”? A more
appropriate question is whether the “truth” itself is as important as it is perceived to be. The ANZAC
Legend has become central to the Australian identity, built to separate Australia from the mother
country in a surge of Nationalism. It is simply the representation of qualities which Australians admire.
Therefore, it is not necessary to engross ourselves in questioning the historically accurate sequence of
events, but encourage the aspiration of qualities we value. These National qualities and the ability to
succeed against odds are often displayed in iconic films such as “Crocodile Dundee” in which a bush-
man ventures to the distant land of America unprepared, conquering it with his Larrikin nature. These
qualities are more accurately portrayed, however, in the very real writings and work of the soldiers
Mate ship to Australian Soldiers meant and still means more than just being a good friend. The rela-
tionship between soldiers evolved from shared hardships and experiences, unconditional care and
assistance, respect and understanding of each other.
2013 Winner Victoria Jessica Greenan Fintona Girls’ School 2
The theme of mate ship has since been amplified through various forms of media which tend to glorify
and create a romantic version of the Australian history and Landscape. Such media include the Classic
1981 Australian film “Gallipoli” which demonstrates the relationship between two rival athletes who
become best friends through the harsh experience of war.
“A sergeant of the Light Horse” painted by George Lambert, Official First World War artist in 1920, also
displays a romantic version of Australian History and its Landscape. Painted as a tribute to the typical
Australian, Lambert chose not to paint the formal portrait of a sergeant mounted on his horse, but set
his focus instead on portraying the essence of the sergeant’s character. In the background lies a rural
environment of rolling hills, to emphasize the relationship an Australian has with the land. Posed in his
flannel shirt with sleeves rolled to his biceps, the sergeant is in a casual position which can be associ-
ated with the lack of discipline the ANZACs shared with their peers. With eyes cast downwards and his
hat to his chest, it suggests that he has removed it as a sign of respect to his fallen comrades. However,
with his forearms bare, his hands are perhaps the most significant part of Lambert’s creation. Incred-
ibly defined and muscular, they symbolize the strong, hard-working Australian we associate with the
Australian Identity today. This painting reveals and supports the personality and definition of the
ANZAC and the main theme of this painting – the ANZAC Legend. However, the sergeant, believed to
be Thomas Herbert Iver, was not the only subject in this painting – Lambert has also painted a clear
description in which can be used to explain the origin and qualities within the ANZAC Legend.
Professor Manning Clark in his novel “A History of Australia”, however, suggests an image contrary
to the noble ANZAC identity. He states that, as recruits, “some participated in violent scuffles on the
streets of Melbourne, before being shipped to war”. Their reputation of being “unwilling to bow to mili-
tary discipline” was confirmed particularly in Egypt. Sufficient evidence shows that soldiers burned the
belongings of the locals, carelessly became intoxicated – leading to riots and brawls, and spent a con-
siderable amount of time in local brothels where most contracted venereal disease. This less-heroic
behaviour of the ANZAC; brawling, mocking and drinking, was and still is part of the Australian defini-
tion of masculinity and larrikinism. It must be understood that this “Rat-bag and Rebellious” behaviour
was a step in the evolution of Australian Masculinity.
Of course, not all forms of masculinity were detrimental. Known primarily for their sacrifice and
selflessness, it can be possible that the main quality seen in masculinity was bravery. Joseph Stratford,
a Cane-cutter from Northern New South Wales, was the first ANZAC to charge the beach of Gallipoli.
Armed only with a bayonet to his rifle, he proceeded towards a Turkish machine gun, managing to bayo-
net two Turkish soldiers before being shot multiple times. Born in Maitland, Stratford was among the
first to enlist as war broke out.
It was the devotion, bravery and sacrifice from young men such as Stratford and Martin who produced
the Anzac legend which continues to be passed onto following generations. An analysis of primary
sources both supplies and confirms the conditions, hardships, and stories of soldiers which reveal the
Gallipoli experience. Today, thousands of Australian men and women constantly risk their lives to
protect not only their country, but the Anzac legend itself.
2013 Winner Victoria Jessica Greenan Fintona Girls’ School