Anzac Spirit

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					              Anzac Spirit
                          Mateship & Courage
                              Broth ers I n Arms

By Sarida McLeod, aged 15.


This article is dedicated to one of natures gentlemen and a fair dinkim hero of mine; a true leader,
who knew when extreme resilience was warranted and who was prepared to distribute same. But
moreover, knew when an encouraging word, a knowledgeable and affectionate wink and grin or a
loving hug would make the world of difference. I speak of my recently late Grandfather, Kenneth
John McLeod who served in Vietnam on two tours of duties with the Royal Australian Air Force
with his treasured Airfield Defence Guard (Adgie) and 9th Squadron mates and to all Vietnam Vets.
Heroes to me, every single one of them and respected “Brothers in Arms” to my cheri shed and
dearly missed friend and Granddad, Ken “Blue” McLeod.

On April 25, 1915, Australian troops landed at Gallipoli, cementing themselves into what was to
become the ultimate Australian legend. Australia was a fledgling nation at the beginning of Wor ld
War I, but emerged from it with newborn pride and a burning sense of national identity spawned by
the year’s hardship and of eight months of continuous warfare in Gallipoli. The military defeat
created an ironically celebrated notion, the Anzac spirit o mateship and courage which extends
beyond mere comradeship and “forms teams with a combined strength far exceeding the sum of
their numbers”. The intensity of the spirit was such that its significance not only encompassed
Gallipoli, but extended to more recent times as well. The Anzac spirit was forged by the men at
Gallipoli, peaking in a display of heroism and unity at the Battle of the Nek in 1915. It was
rekindled by future generations in the battlefield, particularly the Rats of Tobruk, the soldiers at the
Kokoda Trail during World War II and the Vietnam Vets of the fierce battles of Coral, Balmoral
and in The Long Tan.

Aviator Charles Gordon Taylor in the 1930s, and the Bali tragedy of 2002, also showed that the
spirit had transcended military ethos to inspire ordinary citizens to do great things. Intangible but
powerful, the mateship and courage epitomised by the Anzacs is embedded in the Australian psyche
in times of both war and peace.

The strength of the bond between Australia’s soldiers and its ability to inspire great acts of valour
first came to light during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Though 5,000-6,000 Anzacs were killed
during the first day alone, the soldiers held on for a further eight months, drawing on their courage
and mateship to overcome fatigue, severe losses, disease and a resilient and brutal enemy.

Keith Murdoch, an Australian reporter at Gallipoli, remarked that in comparison to the British
military, who were “suffering from an atrophy of the mind and body”, the Australia n soldiers
appeared to fight because they wanted to, rather than because they had to. This attitude was the
embodiment of the Anzac spirit, the sheer courage and determination strengthened by mateship
which was also commented on by British journalist Ashmead Bartlett when he said: “t hough many
were shot to bits…you could see arms waving in greeting to the crews of the warships. They were
happy because they knew they had been tried for the first time, and had not been found wanting”.
The determination of the Anzacs to not fail each other often lead to great bouts of courage, with no
single event demonstrating this better than the four day Battle of the Nek in August of 1915. Not
wanting, nor prepared to let their mates charge alone, the fourth line of the Australian Light Horse
troops, initially held back to prevent unnecessary loss of life, nonetheless charged straight into
lethal Turkish fire, and for more than half of them, to their deaths. Here, it was the spirit of mateship
and courage ingrained into every Anzac that rose to compel and allow the soldiers to stick to their
mates, no matter the cost. Aptly, the Turkish have a different name for the Nek: Cesarit Tepe or
“Hill of Valour”. The conduct of the soldiers at Gallipoli conceived a legacy of courage a             nd
mateship which became an integral part of Australia’s identity.

Future generations continued to exhibit the camaraderie and heroism of their predecessors
throughout Australia’s war history. At the “Easter Battle” of April 13, 1941, the Rats of Tobruk
succeeded in defending the fortress of Tobruk from Nazi military tactics that had never failed
previously in Poland, Belgium and France. It was the Anzacs’ ability to have full confidence in the
bravery and determination of his mates and fellow solider that made the difference. In a 1958
research file titled Tobruk, the Australian War Memorial stated that “the spirit of co-operation, trust
and comradeship between the men of the garrison was the real strength of Tobruk.” This same sense
of mateship and courage against the odds was drawn on again at the Battle of Isurava in 1942, when
a band of 400 soldiers became the last line of defence against a 14,000 strong Japanese enemy force
on the Kokoda trail.

Upon hearing that the 39 th battalion were under attack, 27 of the injured casualties walked back to
assist their comrades, a true example of the strength of the mateship between the Anzacs. Though
wounded, many seriously, they were not prepared to stand down and let their mates perform battle
without whatever support they could give. One in all in, I’ve got your 6 (back) and never, under any
circumstance, let your mate down became the unofficial and unspoken dictum of the Anzac.

They courageously held back relentless waves of enemy assaults, eventually resorting to bloody
hand to hand combat. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner, who commanded the battalion at the time,
remarked that the soldiers were “transformed by some catalyst of spirit into a devoted band wherein
every man’s failing strength was fortified and magnified by his burning resolve to stick to his
mates”. However, this was not the only time that Australian soldiers were forced to face and
valiantly confront head-on, incredible odds, and yet, through spirit and skill, defied them.

Despite being ambushed and grossly outnumbered by 2,500 Viet Cong and battle hardened NVA
regulars, the Australian soldiers in the Battle of The Long Tan stalwartly prevailed. It was
apparent that the Viet Cong and NVA commanders had failed to appreciate or for that
matter comprehend the strength of the Australians’ courage and mateship and had paid
dearly as a result as shown in the body count. The mateship and courage displayed by the
Australian troops was evidence that the Anzac spirit had lived on, and would live on, so strongly
and so intrinsically that it was not to be confined to wartime. Whilst Anzacs over history fought for
our countries Australia and New Zealand, it was apparent that they fought first and foremost for
their Assie and Kiwi mates. The “diggers” stood staunchly and enthusiastically side by side for each
other and with little or no thought and perhaps varying degrees of distain for the politicians who
placed them in such perilous position. This was of little consequence to The Anzac Spirit that has
been repeatedly displayed.
Just as the spirit surpassed Gallipoli, it surpassed the battlefield and proved itself inherent in the
everyday Australian. In a 1935 flight with Charles Kingsford Smith, Patrick Gordon Taylor climbed
out of an airborne plane to collect oil from a useless engine and transfer it to the other engines every
half hour so that the plane could be flown to safety. Taylor was awarded a George Cross, the
highest award for civilian gallantry, for his courageous action by King Edward VIII. Though there
was no enemy or battlefield, the valour displayed was still very much the spirit which allowed the
Anzacs to rise when all seemed lost. The Bali tragedy of October 12, 2002 in Kuta further captured
this spirit, as Australian volunteers, many who were merely tourists, banded together to assist in the
help effort.

With the same sense of unity and courage beyond duty epitomised at Gallipoli, ordinary Australians
became rescuers, pulling friends and strangers alike from the carnage. One of the many Australians
to earn a Bravery Medal, Constable Britten, was said to have “displayed the most conspicuous
courage in circumstances of peril”. A testament to the Anzac spirit of mateship that commands
loyalty amongst all those bound together by circumstance, Britten repeatedly entered the burning
Sari Club to rescue survivors, putting himself in grave danger and going beyond the call of duty.
Likewise, the mateship of the Australians in Bali was reciprocated by those at home with the flood
of support from charity funds and the government. Away from the battlefield, Australians continued
to call upon the Anzac spirit and those characteristics which have become synonymous with it in
times of need.

From terrible defeats to remarkable victories, generals and privates to the man on the street, it is not
the glory of war that has forged the much celebrated spirit of Anzac, but the characteristics which
have emerged from trial and adversity. The legacy of mateship and courage began by the soldiers of
Gallipoli remains an ever present reminder of the tragedies of the past, and the Australians’ ability
to overcome them. It has become a significant part of Australia’s national identity, a spirit born in
defeat but that stands for defying the odds, courage in the name of mateship, trust, sacrifice, and
above all, the memory of all those who have helped to forge it.

Lest We Forget

I love, miss and will never forget you Granddad. Rest in Peace me old mate. xxx

Sarida McLeod
Brisbane Girls Grammar

                                                                           Granddad & I at Anzac Day


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