The date for ANZAC Day, April 25th, was chosen because it was the day of landing at Gallipoli in 1915. The day has been honoured ever since, now an incredible 107 years ago. Tasmania’s contribution to the war effort of WWI was massive from what was then a small society. 181 Tasmanians lost their life at Gallipoli. They rest in the various cemeteries located in Turkey. Many Tasmanians saw action on the first day of landing, such as Harry Hodgman who lost his life .They served with the 12th AIF Battalion (Bn) of which more than half were from Tasmania.
Tasmanians were also strong in representation in the 15th Bn, which held the infamous Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill. Both endured the accuracy of the Turkish guns. Tasmanians served too, with the 26th Bn and the 9th Battery Field Artillery.
The 3rd Light Horse, with their mounts left behind in Egypt, was used as reinforcements three weeks after the landing to join the 15th Bn at Pope’s Hill.
Gallipoli veterans wore the small letter “a” on their colour patch.
Nearly twenty thousand Australians were wounded at Gallipoli with 8, 300 dying. Many died at a later date as a result of their wounds and are buried elsewhere.
In round figures, 60,000 Australians died during the war, and (again) in round figures this includes 3,000 Tasmanians. Dating from April 1915 until November 1918, I calculate approximately 7-8 Tasmanian young men died every three days at the front. This is not counting the wounded or sick. Each day the local newspapers would carry their names. One can only imagine the stress and grief of the families at home. It is an incredible statistic; a tragic one. Such figures would not be acceptable in this modern era.
WWI, however, was not the first occasion Tasmanians have been involved in wars and have lost their lives. The first war that Tasmanians served, 158 of them, was the one in New Zealand, 1863-64. I have not been able to find any fatalities among those who left, although I suspect there were one or more. The first recorded Tasmanian to die in battle that I have researched was Arthur Dobson who died 25th March 1879 during the Zulu War. Other Tasmanians served. Then in the Sudan, artillery man James Robertson died 31st May 1885.
Between 1899-1902 Tasmanians served in South Africa during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. I have found and documented 42 of our sons who lost their life in that far away land. In comparison to WWI of course that may not sound a lot, but putting it in perspective, our recently involvement in Afghanistan, 41 Australian soldiers died over a 13 year period – 41 too many I agree and we must take into account eight times as many veterans have committed suicide since returning. Something is dreadfully wrong here. Tasmanian, Corporal Cameron Steward Baird was awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his services in Afghanistan. Sadly he was killed in action June 22, 2013.
Two VCs were awarded to Tasmanians during the South African War, eleven in WWI and one in WWII that being Teddy Sheean which was awarded, 12th August 2020 many years after his action. He was our first naval man to receive the honour.
The conclusion of WWII in 1945 did not see the end of our involvement in war. We have noted that Tasmanians served with great distinction in Afghanistan with the death of Baird who had served also in East Timor and Iraq. There were Tasmanians serving in the Korean War, The Malaysian Campaign (which really was a war) and the Indonesian Confrontation and in every conflict Tasmanians died.
Then there was the most controversial war of all, Vietnam where a number of Tasmanians died. One of the very few who lost their lives serving with the Royal Australian Air Force was a Tasmanian, Ronald Betts. There is a lovely memorial to Tasmanian Vietnam fatalities at ANZAC Park, Lindisfarne.
ANZAC Day then is a time when we rightly remember all those fallen, all those who returned wounded, at time with horrific wounds which lingered until they passed away. We remember all who served in every theatre of war. This includes the deserts of North Africa, the terrain of South Africa, the jungles of Asia, the Pacific region and of Vietnam, the hell of the western front and Gallipoli. Many experienced the bitter cold of Korea. Our naval personnel served on every ocean of the world and our airmen over the skies of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and North Africa. On ANZAC Day we also reflect on those at home who worked diligently to support our fighting men and of course we remember our nurses who served with valour throughout the war where-ever our military served.