Friday, March 27, 2015

Remembering them: People of St George & The First World War


The landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915 founded the events that were to inspire and sustain a potent Anzac legend. We remember this legend each year on Anzac Day, as we did 99 years ago on that first Anzac Day in 1916.
Looking back today, it is hard for us to truly empathise with what the first anniversary of the Anzac landing meant to those soldiers who had served in Gallipoli. Some light can be shed by the first-hand accounts of Australian servicemen who experienced Anzac Day with their comrades.

Memorials in Egypt

Extracts of letters written by the brothers William and George Simms, of Penshurst, paint the scene of Anzac commemorations in Egypt in 1916. Their correspondence was published in the Hurstville Propeller in June of that year. [1] According to the brothers,
‘Anzac Day, the day which needs no explanation as to its meaning and importance’, was marked in Cairo by a memorial service organised by Anzac troops and attended by 1500 persons. The emotion of the day was felt by all present. ‘What an awe-inspiring spectacle it was to witness hardened war-stained warriors and hopeful untested soldiers alike battling with an unconquerable emotion, which spoke of past glories of fallen heroes.’ Hymns were sung and the Last Post sounded ‘amid a death like and saddening stillness. For any soldier who has been in action, or had a dear comrade die, this call has sepulchral significance.’ 

Commemorative services have been held across the world on Anzac Day ever since. Traditionally, they take place at dawn; the time of the original landing in Gallipoli.

Gallipoli, Turkey. 25 April 1923. Buglers sounding the last post as the firing party loads during an Anzac Service at Anzac Cove. Image: AWM H12949. (Donor Miss M. Berkeley).

Anzac Day marches

In Egypt 1916, following the memorial service, the troops marched four miles through Cairo to the Military Cemetery, where floral wreaths were placed on each soldier’s grave to pay tribute to the ‘honoured heroes’. Though their families were far away, their brothers in arms tended to them. ‘The cemetery is splendidly looked after and a headstone marks the place of those who are buried there. These have been erected by their comrades.’

Unidentified Australian soldiers march through the Cairo's city streets on Anzac Day 1916 on their way to do honour to their fallen comrades at Old Cairo Cemetery
Image: AWM C00016.

The march in Egypt was but one among many Anzac Day 1916 marches all over the world. In London, over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets. In Sydney, accompanying the marching soldiers were convoys of cars carrying those wounded in Gallipoli. Though they had to be attended by nurses, these soldiers could not be prevented from honouring their fallen mates on this day.

First World War returned soldiers marching through the streets of Sydney during an Anzac Day march, c. 1938. The men hold their hats over their hearts at the Centotaph. 
Image: AWM A03638.

Fun and games

A day of sports and games was also held in the Australian camp in Egypt. Two-up was undoubtedly played, for the game was very popular among the Australian diggers in Gallipoli as they huddled in the trenches.

Spectators enjoy a boxing match between two contestants during the sports carnival that was part of the Anzac Day celebrations at Tel el Kebir camp in 1916. 
Image: AWM C00267.

The finish of a race at the AIF sports meeting, held at Duntroon Plateau on 
Anzac Day 1916. Image: AWM C04400.

Anzac biscuits

Originally called soldiers’ biscuits, Anzac biscuits were renamed after the Gallipoli landing and were a very popular food to send overseas to the Australian forces.
Try this Anzac biscuit recipe from 1926!
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tbls golden syrup
2 tbls boiling water
1 tsp bicarbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)
Combine dry ingredients. Mix golden syrup, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda until they froth. Add melted butter. Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto floured tray, allowing room for spreading. Bake in a slow oven.

Have you made Anzac biscuits at home? Please share your recipes and photos with us and tag us on facebook, twitter and instagram: #HurstvilleFamilyRecipes

A stack of ration boxes on the beach at Anzac Cove, 1915, arranged so that they form a shelter for the men responsible for its distribution. Can you see the man standing behind a stack of biscuit crates? Image: AWM C03393.

Do you want to find out more about the Anzacs? Come and visit our exhibition
Remembering them: People of St George & the First World War on show until 31 May 2015.

Follow our Commemorating WW1 and Anzac Day Pinterest board.

[1] Hurstville Propeller, 16 June 1916, p. 3.

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