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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Great Adventure

The Great Adventure.

April 25th., 1915. What a host of memories the date conjures up. Our thoughts drift back across the dead months, and we see a great convoy of transports, guarded by destroyers, ploughing carelessly through the waters which lap the European side of the Gallipoli Peninsula. On these ships are men, young and untried to the grim game of War, and who have come across nine thousand miles of ocean to help the Motherland in her hour of need. The gangways are thrown out, the men step into small boats and are quietly towed to the shore. Used to the great wide spaces and a free and easy life, they look forward to what is before them as a great adventure. They little think that, ere the sun again sinks o'er the land ahead of them, their wonderful bravery will have made their name immortal. The scene is one that even the gifted brush of a painter such as Dore could not depict. The hillsides are a mass of men, struggling, cursing and stabbing. Many are killed, others fall wounded; still the remainder push on, and ere sunset, a landing has been made on those rugged slopes.

* * *

Just three short years, but in that period the names of Australia and New Zealand have penetrated every corner of the globe. The hearts of those ''down under" have glowed with pride, and the eyes of many mothers have tilled with tears, as they read of that wonderful landing on far away Gallipoli. They are proud of their sons, these parents. They know that in all the records of war they cannot find a parallel to the landing at Anzac. Their sons proved themselves equal to the veterans of the legions of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Cromwell or any other war lord one may name—what did the greatest of these do worthy to outshine the tragic heroism of those troops, who charged up the parched, barren slopes of the Gallipoli Peninsula? There was a time in Australia and New Zealand, and it is nut so many years ago, when it was thought that the old mediaeval chivalry of our forefathers was dead, that the love of sport had sapped courage. Courage!—why the word has hardly had a meaning with the Australians and New Zealanders until these last three years. Remember Sir Ian Hamilton's words, which rang with sincerity, which the Anzacs were called upon to perform a most difficult military operation; that their brilliant conduct, and the success achieved, had won for them a reputation of which any Country must be proud. He also said that it was an honour for him to command such men. One may search the despatches of the most famous generals, in the most famous victories of the British army, without finding any tribute of praise so fervently expressed, and so evidently and thoroughly sincere. In Australia and New Zealand during the past three years, the horrors of the war have oppressed everyone, and hearts are sad at the sufferings of our wounded and the loss of so many of our bravest and best. In years to come, they shall remember only the glorious manner in which the flower of the Austral Dominions withstood the foe, and made the names of their island homes for ever famous. Those who are now mourning their dead feel that it is a privilege to fight, and even to fall in so great and glorious a cause; and the moving tribute paid by the British press 10 our troops has brought comfort to those who mourn. But no chronicles have told them the details of what was done at Anzac. Only a few names, and the echo of some isolated feats, have reached them. But as they came from everywhere, from every rank, and at every hour, they are witness to the courage displayed by our troops. And when the Angel of Peace hovers over this battle-scarred planet, the Anzacs, like their allied comrades, will not have to boast about infamous crimes. For they have committed only what they were forced to commit, and the responsibility for it remains, like an indelible stain, with Germany, We hate inhumanity and brute force. When the war is over, we will return to our homes, to finish with our hands and brains the work of peace we began with weapons.

* * *

There is the stillness of death now on the reeking cemetery-like slopes of Anzac. An occasional shell from a cruiser lying out from the Cove reminds the enemy that the Allies are still active. But little disturbs the graves of our comrades, who lie buried at Anzac and Suvla Bay. Their wars are ended. They sleep well. We, who are carrying on the work they began, are only plain soldiers, with soldiers' traditional views of all that is meant by the honourable epitaph, "Killed in Action." So sacred to us is the grief of those in Australia and New Zealand, that we have no words of conventional sympathy to give them in this article. It may be, however, that an understanding of our fighting men's soul will comfort those whose part it is to weep when their man is dead, and his work is left a heritage for the living. The soldiers' trade, scoffed at in peace by fools, is to "stand by," ready at any instant to fail in on the brink of eternity, and look death's dark angel squarely in the eye when their country calls. By them, death's cold presence is not feared as the soft-living, stay-at-home civilian fears it. Before they have been in the firing line any length of time, they talk of '"The Long Sleep" familiarly. If it comes, they are ready. Deep down in their hearts is a conviction somewhat akin to that of the fanatic, who believes that death on the battle field, is everlasting life. They will go out in a blaze of glory. If they die, it is that somebody may live. Death comes to all of us some day. When it comes on the battlefield, it exalts the humblest to the Vahalla of the Happy Warrior. Not theirs the passing triumph of the victor's return, and the shouts of the people. Theirs is the pinnacle of martial glory. Those who lie buried on or near the beach, among the gullies and ridges of Gallipoli, have hung up their laurel-wreathed swords in the hails of the brave, bright with imperishable lustre. They heard the call of the Motherland, and responded. Death has been their share of the conflict, but they have gone under just as their forefathers went under, so that the grand old flag, which carries freedom and civilization to every corner of the world, shall still fly above those they have left behind them.