The centenary of the August Offensive commemorated at Gallipoli
7 August 2015
Solemn ceremonies were held in Turkey yesterday to commemorate the ANZACs who served and lost their lives at Lone Pine and The Nek during the August Offensive a century ago.
Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, AK, MC (Retd) joined the Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, DSC, AM, Army’s Indigenous Elder Uncle Roy Mundine, OAM, (retired Warrant Officer Class One), and Victoria Cross Recipients; Mr Keith Payne, VC, AM, Corporal Mark Donaldson, VC, Corporal Dan Keighran, VC, and Mr and Mrs Doug and Kaye Baird, the parents of Corporal Cameron Baird, VC, MG, in commemorating the 1915 August Offensive.
Eight serving soldiers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage conducted a ceremony honouring warrior spirits, demonstrating a blend of military and cultural traditions.
Lieutenant General Campbell said the ceremony was a fitting tribute to the Indigenous Anzacs who served and died during the August Offensive.
“More than 50 soldiers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage served on the Gallipoli peninsula, and nine of these soldiers gave their lives in the Gallipoli campaign,” Lieutenant General Campbell said.
“There may have been many more whose heritage was not recorded amongst the 50,000 Australians who fought and the 8,700 who gave their lives in the service of our nation.
“The Australian Army has a rich and proud history of service. These ANZACs helped forge our Army’s identity and define our national character and they have left us a strong and enduring legacy.
“This legacy resides in our modern Army at home, on operations and in our soldiers representing Army at the August Offensive commemorations.”
In a ‘Spirit of Place’ ceremony held later in the day, Mr Payne, Corporal Donaldson, Corporal Keighran and Mr Baird participated in a service to commemorate the Battle of Lone Pine and The Nek.
The August Offensive was the last major attempt by the Allies to break the stalemate that persisted since the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915. The Battle of Lone Pine which began on the afternoon of 6 August 1915; saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Gallipoli campaign, with more than 2,000 Australian casualties over four days and seven Victoria Crosses awarded.
Lieutenant General Campbell, Mr Payne, Corporal Donaldson and Corporal Keighran participated in the service, giving readings and laying wreaths. Mr Baird delivered the same reading his son Cameron gave at the 2008 Anzac Day service in Gallipoli.
Corporal Donaldson said being involved in the commemorations was a humbling experience.
“The Nek is incredibly compelling as a story, particularly for a soldier,” Corporal Donaldson said.
“It speaks of courage and mateship, despite the likelihood of imminent death. We heard stories of soldiers banding together despite the odds, the terrain and the heat, cold, bombardments, flies, death; being there for one another, no matter what.”
The 2015 August Offensive commemorations provided an opportunity for Corporal Keighran to visit the Gallipoli peninsula for the first time.
“It’s truly a privilege to come here and to stand on the ground that 100 years ago Australians fought on,” Corporal Keighran said.
“The battle of The Nek is the most evocative aspect of the whole Gallipoli campaign for me. We walked the trench lines between the Turks and the Anzac lines and it’s hard to believe it was only 27 metres between the two.
“It gives such a different perspective to come here. To stand on the beach and look up and see what faced them. You can see it on television or read about it, but until you’ve been here I don’t think you can truly appreciate what the ANZACs went through.”
Imagery from the ceremonies is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20152082
Additional information about the August Offensive is available at: http://army.gov.au/Our-history/History-in-Focus/Centenary-of-the-August-1915-Offensive
The ceremony honouring warrior spirits is one of the activities being conducted in Australia and overseas during the Centenary of Anzac commemorations to acknowledge those who served in the First World War.
In traditional Aboriginal society, death is a time when a spirit is released from the physical body to rejoin the unseen world and return to its home. Ceremonies surrounding death facilitate the spirit returning.
The soil at the location at the time of death is understood to have a spiritual connection with the deceased. Kinship with the environment, particularly native animals and celestial systems, hold a special place in ceremony for Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures.
Without appropriate ceremonies, the deceased spirit may not be at peace. It is the connection to the land that binds many Australian Aboriginal cultures. Torres Strait Islanders have a similar connection to the sea.
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