Remembering ‘The Diggers’ – when Waltzing Matilda and the Silver Fern Gave All
One of the most dramatic theatres of the war, outside Europe, was that of the Middle East, especially Turkey. In 1915 thousands of allied troops took part in landings to try and take the strategic Dardanelle Straits.
The Turks were waiting and pinned the expeditionary force down on the beaches for months before the decision was taken to evacuate.
Although the mighty ANZACs, or ‘Diggers’ as they were nicknamed, took part in every theatre of the War, the Gallipoli Campaign was viewed as the coming of age for both countries.
The following are just three of the Orange stories.
Trooper James Happer
Brother James Happer joined the Canterbury Mounted Rifles at the beginning of the Great War. He and his brother, Thomas, were both members of LOL No. 23 in News South Wales and were deployed to Gallipoli. James died of his wounds on 19 May 1915 and his brother Thomas was Killed In Action on 6 April 1915.
Able Seaman William George Vincent Williams
Able Seaman Williams was a member of LOL No. 92 in Melbourne. He was the first Australian casualty of the Great War and was Killed In Action as an Australian Taskforce moved to take the German Colony of New Guinea.
Private Thomas J. Robb
An Engineer by profession, he enlisted in the Canterbury Infantry at the outbreak of the Great War. In 1915 he was deployed to Gallipoli and was soon in the thick of things as a stretcher bearer, being slightly wounded on the first day. A few weeks later, 6 June, he was badly wounded and subsequently died of his injuries on 7 July. Just before notification of his death, his father received a letter in which Robb described an attack –
“The Turks made a desperate attack on the Australians a few nights ago. They had been heavily reinforced, and came on in battalions in mass formation. The Australians opened on them…and just mowed them down with machine guns. The chaps say that there are about eight acres in front of the lines just piled up with dead Turks.”
It was a terrible scene and demonstrated the horrible nature of war and the sacrifice of many on both sides.