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n April 25, NZ will remember the

ANZACs as we have done for 100

years. The numbers attending dawn

services or gatherings later in the day have

increased markedly over recent years,

especially among the younger crowd, as more

school children learn about our history. Most

Kiwis can cite the landing at Anzac Cove in

Gallipoli, Turkey as the reason for ANZAC

Day, but how many of us actually know the

circumstances that led to that ill-fated landing

on April 25 so many years ago?

In this, the 100th year since that significant

event of the First World War, we celebrate the

valour shown by our predecessors in their

efforts to preserve peace in their time. The

world as we know it would be a very different

place if not for such men’s sacrifices.

It all started with an assassination…

Widely believed to be the catalyst for WWI,

the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (heir

to the Austro-Hungarian throne) on June 28,

1914 in Sarajevo, was followed quickly by

botched diplomacy and Serbian reservists

‘invading’ the Austrian side of the Danube.

The Austrian military response to this invasion

by the Kingdom of Serbia, caused Russia and

France to come to the aid of the Kingdom,

fulfilling prearranged war treaties and alliances.

Germany then became involved, to assist

the Austro-Hungarians. Other allies like

Great Britain then joined to support France

and Russia, and in November of 1914, the

strategically placed Ottoman Empire (Turkey)

aligned with the Central Powers (Germany,

Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria). Soon most

European countries were at war, but perhaps

that original catalyst had been lost sight of.

Young men from Australia and New Zealand –

still loyal then to King and Country – couldn’t

volunteer quickly enough once news of the

conflict reached our shores. Only the fittest

were chosen from the many who signed up,

most aged 19-21. These largely untrained and

untested young men from down under became

known as the ANZACs, the Australia and New

Zealand Army Corps.

Churchill’s scheme for the Eastern Front

The Allied troops on the Western Front between

France and Belgium had made little territorial

headway, despite the nonstop exchange of

bullets, bayonets, bombs and mustard gas

claiming hundreds of thousands of lives within

a few months.

Ambitious English politician Winston Churchill,

by now First Lord of the Admiralty, decided to

change the war’s dynamics. Churchill prepared

two proposals: attack north to open the Baltic

Sea access to allied Russia, and open an

Eastern Front to take the strategic Dardanelles

Strait that flowed along the narrow Gallipoli

peninsula. This narrow strait connected the

Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and thus to

the Black Sea and to Russia.

When the Ottomans sided with the Germans in

October 1914, they closed the Dardanelles

to all Allied ships and staged an attack against

Russia who then declared war on the Turks, as

did England. Nearby neutral countries like

Greece joined the Allies. Political support grew

for the Eastern Front plan, and Churchill

predicted that the Allies would take

Constantinople, and with the shipping lanes

under Allied control, Russia would bolster this

Eastern front, and soon the War would be over.

The ANZAC arrive in Egypt

via the Suez Canal

It had been originally planned that training

of the ANZAC boys would be undertaken

in England, then they would travel on to the

Western Front, but as the English training camp

had storm damage (and now the Ottomans had

entered the fray), the troop ships were held in

Egypt as they sailed north through the canal.

In December of 1914, ships unloaded the eager

troops who were at first disappointed to be

far from the action. The picturesque pyramids,

the camels, all provided a great backdrop as

the Aussies and Kiwis trained together in the

intense Egyptian sun. When they were not

training, they learned to be keen sightseers,

dubbed ‘Massey’s Tourists’ (after Bill Massey,

NZ’s Prime Minister at the time), and patrons of

the exotic city life of Cairo.

Below a Turkish map of the Gallipoli Peninsula

showing where the Allied forces staged their

invasion attempts on that fateful April 25

morning. Many naval vessels took part.







Gallipoli Peninsula



The Dardanelles Strait

Charles Dixon,

The Landing at Anzac, 1915



by Carol Wright