Discoveries

Facts & Figures

There is a huge divide between the military history taught to our Defence Force as opposed to the soft military history we, the general populace, are taught:

There’s lots of myth about Anzac. Everything you know about Simpson is largely myth. The story about how troops went ashore in the face of thunderous machine gun fire is rubbish. The biggest myth about Anzac is that it probably would have succeeded.”
– Dr Roger Lee (Head, Australian Army History Unit), speaking about the Gallipoli Campaign in a lecture at RMC Duntroon

We are so comfortable remembering our World War One Diggers (and soldiers in general) as victims. However, according to Major General (Ret’d) Jim Molan:

The Australians led the development of what was called the trench raid. They would launch into noman’sland, capture a segment of trench. Now you go in at night, you carry clubs and you beat people to death. Australian soldiers pioneered that and they did it brilliantly. These are not victims.”

It is estimated that there were 200 000 Ottoman casualties at Gallipoli – it’s too hard to gauge and exact number of dead. These men successfully defended their country and it led to the birth of the Republic of Turkey.

Some facts and figures:

  • British Dead:  Approx. 20 – 30 000 (more than any other country)
  • French Dead: Approx. 10 000
  • Indian Dead: Approx. 1 500
  • Australian Dead: Approx. 8 000
  • New Zealand Dead: Approx. 2 500

(SOURCE: Gallipoli: The End of The Myth Robin Prior 2009)

The legend claims that the ANZACs landed on the wrong beach, but is this true?

The legend says we were supposed to land … on Brighton Beach and of course the Turks expected a landing there and they had barbed wire in the water. That certainly would have been a disaster if we’d landed there.”
– Prof. Robin Prior (Author, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth)

The Anzac Commemorative site is not actually at Anzac Cove, it is at North Beach!

The failure of the August Push is laid at the feet of British troops who, instead of assisting the ANZACs, sat around down at Suvla Bay sipping tea. These two operations were in fact completely separate. And if there were men down at Suvla Bay that day, they were injured. Also, they were Irish.

It was convenient at the time to blame the failure of one campaign on the other, and the ‘Suvla Bay Tea Party’ was a, “conspiracy on the part of official historians {including Australia’s official WW1 Historian C.W Bean} to tell the same sort of story. Not that the plan that they made was impractical but that the men were not capable of carrying it out.” – Prof. Robin Prior.

Around 50 000 Anzacs died on the Western Front. In a matter of weeks in 1916, we lost more men than in the entire 8 months of the Gallipoli Campaign. But these men did not want to be remembered as victims. They evolved into a brilliant, highly trained force. Unlike at Gallipoli, they were eventually victorious.

Amidst all that catastrophe the leaders and the commanders and the soldiers themselves were learning from their experience.  They were learning new ways of fighting, particularly at the level of the individual group of soldiers. They were developing more accurate and sophisticated weaponry and so to see it, the war simply as an endless repetition of stupidity by the generals is just simply not accurate.”
– Prof. Joan Beaumont (Author, Broken Nation)

All the Australians who served and died on the Western Front were volunteers. There were two bitterly contested conscription referendums in Australia, and both times the vote (narrowly) was ‘no’. Australia became profoundly divided on the issue, and the war and its fall out had far-reaching consequences for Australian society as a whole:

You’ve got broken bodies, you’ve got broken families, you’ve got broken hearts if I can put it that way, of the people who were bereaved but in a wider sense, Australia as a society and as a body politic was broken by the war and left the society perhaps less adventurous, less innovative, less spontaneous and that in many ways the post war society was a much more xenophobic conservative and divided society.”
– Prof. Joan Beaumont

Have you ever heard of Bellenglise? Pozieres? Polygon Wood? Mont Saint Quentin? Sailly-le-Sec? These are the places the AIF chose to memorialize their victories, yet the have been largely forgotten:

1915 and Gallipoli is so dominant that these huge campaigns towards the end of the war, which involve casualties on a similar if not greater scale, have been pushed to the margins of national memory.
– Prof Joan Beaumont

Over 1 000 Aboriginal soldiers fought in the First World War. Despite this, they returned home to face the same discrimination that they encountered when they had departed.

On the battlefield they were mates. They fought together, they bled together, they died together. When they got home, it was black and white. Mick had come all the way over here, fought on the battlefields, got wounded twice, was gassed, got back to Collarenebri, was allowed in the RSL club one day of the year: Anzac Day.”
– Joe Flick, descendant of Indigenous WW1 Veteran

Venereal Disease statistics are shocking and little known. Over 60 000 soldiers had VD by the end of 1918 – more than soldiers who had died. These soldiers were often shipped off to remote quarantine camps and given ineffective treatment. Some would pass the diseases on to wives, and then children. Many would die of the diseases, decades later. At the time, the government was more concerned about protecting Australia’s status as a ‘virile white nation’ than supporting the returned servicemen who must have felt completely isolated.