“It may be of interest to readers to hear of the origin of the word ‘Anzac’.”
“When I took over command of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in Egypt a year ago, I was asked to select a telegraphic code address for my Army Corps, and then adopted the word ‘Anzac’.”
“Later on, when we had effected our landing here in April last, I was asked by General Headquarters to suggest a name for the beach where we had made good our first precarious footing, and then asked that this might be recorded as ‘Anzac Cove’—a name which the bravery of our men has now made historical, while it will remain a geographical link for all time.”
“Our eight months at ‘Anzac’ cannot help stamping on the memory of every one of us days of trial and anxiety, hopes, and perhaps occasional fears, rejoicings at success, and sorrow—very deep and sincere—for many a good comrade whom we can never see again.”
“I firmly believe, though, it has made better men of every one of us, for we have all had to look death straight in the face so often, that the greater realities of life must have been impressed on all of us in a way which has never before been possible.”
“Bitter as has been my experience in losing many a good friend, I, personally, shall always look back on our days together at ‘Anzac’ as a time never to be forgotten, for during it I hope I have made many fast friends in all ranks, whose friendship is all the more valuable because it has been acquired in circumstances of stress and often danger, when a man’s real self is shown.”
“It has indeed helped us all to have been with strong men at ‘Anzac’, and whatever the future may have in store, I, personally, shall always regard the time I have been privileged to be a comrade of the brave and strong men from Australia and New Zealand, who have served alongside of me, as one of the greatest privileges that could be conferred on any man, and of which I shall be prouder to the end of my days than any honour which can be given me.”
“No words of mine could ever convey to the readers at their firesides in Australia, New Zealand and the Old Country, one-half of what all their boys have been through, nor is my poor pen capable of telling them of the never-failing courage, determination and cheerfulness of those who have so willingly fought and given their lives for their King and country’s sake.”
“Their deeds are known to the Empire, and can never be forgotten, while if any copy of this little book should happen to survive to fall into the hands of our children, or our children’s children, it will serve to show them to some extent what their fathers have done for the Empire, and indeed for civilisation, in days gone by.
December 19, 1915.
DESPATCH FROM SIR IAN HAMILTON:
“Lieutenant-General Sir W.R. Birdwood has been the soul of Anzac. Not for one single day has he ever quitted his post. Cheery and full of human sympathy, he has spent many hours of each twenty-four inspiring his defenders of the front trenches, and if he does not know every soldier in his force, at least every soldier in the force believes he is known to his chief.”
Editor: the above letter was written by General Birdwood on the eve of the Allied evacuation from the beaches of Anzac and Suvla of some 83,000 men, for which Birdwood had overall control. Despite predictions of up to 30,000 casualties, the evacuation was a masterly operation and one of the great feats of military history, with no deaths recorded and only two men wounded.
(General Birdwood’s letter reproduced from “The Anzac Book” (1916), Third edition, Australian War Memorial, 2010.)