The Gallipoli Effect

“Photograph taken by Lyell Tatton, Wellington Battalion, of troops and supplies coming ashore at Anzac Cove, circa 25-26 April 1915. The hill in the foreground leads up to Plugge’s Plateau.”

Gallipoli. Firstly it is a peninsula on the coast of Turkey. Secondly, one of the deadliest battles of World War One occurred there for just under a year. Thirdly, the campaign was a failure on the Allied side, yet the ANZACs who knew they were doomed just kept on fighting. Fourth, this is not really where the story begins. 

Our story could start anywhere in the British Isles, but mainly Ireland or Scotland ranging from the 1780s to the 1860’s. In the later part of this timeline, the potato famine was taking hundreds of lives every week in Ireland, and people were desperate for food. (Though there was not a famine in Scotland at the time, their food stores were being strained because of England’s demand.) When people become desperate, they will do anything to get what they need, and if it’s food, heaven help the one who stands in their way. Because of this demand, many took to stealing from the supplies heading for England. Others took to the streets, some took to prostitution so they could earn money to buy what little food there was to be had. 

In the end, British police and military stationed in the area arrested so many people that their prisons were overfilled to the point of bursting. Whether they were thieves, sex workers, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time the British filled boats with prisoners and sent them to ‘the land God created last’. 

Australia. We may know it as a popular vacation spot or where many good western films were made. A place of tall, rugged mountains, cattle ranches for as far as the eye could see. Perhaps it’s a land of kangaroos and dingos, parrots and bilbies. Whatever you might think it is now, it most certainly was not them. Yes, beauty did exist, but paired with it was deadly danger. 

After an approximate four month journey, these prisoners would be escorted to a waiting area past the docks and set in lines, counted, then loaded onto wagons –though, more often than not they were forced to walk– and would end up at their destination in what could be a matter hours, or days. 

For those walking they spent almost twelve hours in the hot sun on the dirt roads headed for wherever they were being deported to. If this was the case, dehydration was common. This could lead to heat exhaustion or much worse, heat stroke, even death. It was just endless stretches of red dirt highways, clear blue skies and an unrelenting sun. Most of them were being sent to the barren wastelands, stricken by such a heat that things refused to grow. This was no vacation, there were no interesting animals to see, but instead they had to be wary of them. Large enough packs of dingos might hurt –or kill– someone who falls out the back of the crowd after dark, or snakes that could bite you without warning. This, Australia, ‘the land God created last’ was not some paradise, it was Hell on Earth, and this was just the beginning. 

For years, for what could be the rest of their lives, most male prisoners were forced to work in the heat with few to no breaks to build towns, waterways, bridges, roads, or just menial tasks such as moving a pile of rocks from one side of a prison compound to the other, then back again. 

Mainly, men and women were kept in separate facilities doing separate things. Men did heavy labour, women could too, but they were also forced into factories. These had similar conditions; immense heat from poor ventilation, few breaks and long hours, poor hygiene management…the list goes on and none of it is in the least bit humane. 

Women, if they had been pregnant during the time of their deportation, would have their children as prisoners of the Crown, and their children would stay with them until the end of their sentences (or until they died). There was no adopt-out program then, and the missionaries were already full with the Aboriginal children whom they were educating to be better. The child suffered the sins of the parent. 

But human was not how the British viewed the inmates of Australia, they were prisoners, villains, crooks, whores and degenerates. They were the less desirable factors of society. All sent to rot in Australia. 

Many of the prisoners who survived their sentences couldn’t afford a ticket back to their home countries, so they were left with no choice but to spend their remaining years in that place which had been their penitentiary for so long. However, Australia was a place where someone could disappear. People could use new names, create new lives, and maybe even start a family. 

Now, placing all of the Crown’s degenerates on one island didn’t really have the best outcome for everyone. In the beginning, England thought it was doing itself a favour; getting rid of the problems that stood in their way of success. But later it came back to bite them. 

When these released deportees were set free, they could start new lives and this often involved children, either in the eyes of God or illegitimate. The point is, the British saw these offspring as the demons of Hell set loose to mock their way of life and success in the mainland (England) because crime was literally multiplying. It was an entire British territory run by criminals. The idea at the time was that criminality or moral degeneracy was hereditary —we know this not to be true now, but if England said something then, it was law– and they were socially viewed as outcasts. If this child was the offspring of two criminals then it was just a social death sentence –and what could be a literal death sentence because they might not get a job and end up dying in the streets– England had really just made the problem worse for themselves. 

As a result Australia still kept its old moniker; ‘the land God created last’, but took on a few new ones, ‘the land of convicts’ and ‘the land of thieves and immorals’


Now, take that idea and fast forward to the year 1914, particularly late July. 

Majority of Australia –along with Tasmania and New Zealand by that time– had been colonized by the British in one way or another, and when it declared war against Germany and its allies, Australia got sucked into the fighting. 

When this news got to Australia the generations of animosity seemed to boil over, and to make matters worse, men between seventeen and thirty-five were getting called up left and right to serve King and Country. They were ruled by a proxy government, (most of) their ancestors had been sent to Australia as prisoners of the Crown, it had no king, or at least the people didn’t. But, seeing as they had no choice in the matter, men left home for training and were soon sent to fight the government’s battles.

Australian and New Zealand forcers, referred to as ANZAC (Australian-New-Zealand- Army-Corps.) would land on Gallipoli’s shores on April 25th, 1915 –even though the battle had actually started in February– and made a huge discovery. 

Sadly, no, it was not a way to end the war then and there, or a treasure trove hidden under the sand, but a way to end the idea that Australians (and New Zealanders) were just common criminals and backwards half breeds (referring to the Aboriginal –Native Australian/New Zealand– peoples who had inter-racial relationships). They could be heroes, they could do what the rest of their European rulers hadn’t, win the battle. 

Much like the sun they had grown up under, the ANZAC forces fought relentlessly against ‘Johnny Turk’ –the Ottoman Empire–, but their efforts were all for not. On January 9th, 1916, all Allied forces withdrew from their held area, dubbed ‘ANZAC Cove’, and were redeployed to other areas, such as France. In the end, the Allies had suffered a total of 141,547 deaths and countless more wounded. 


On April 25th, 1916, on the one year anniversary of the ANZAC landings, the very first ANZAC Day was celebrated. At home it was a toast to the sons and daughters at the front and some music in the town square while church bells rang out. 

In 1916 it was well known to the ANZAC forces at the front and in the medical stations. ANZACs, both soldiers and nurses, were proud to celebrate their day, even if they were celebrating an eventual retreat. The British just scoffed, said it was a pointless holiday, that they didn’t deserve it, and called them pitiable colonials

Colonials, as if most of the first Europeans who colonized Australia had a choice in the matter. Pitiable, they didn’t need pity, they needed recognition. The ANZAC forces had taken more than one third of the Allied casualties at Gallipoli, and they were swept under the rug while the British and French took the credit for the sacrifice. It wasn’t pitiable, it was enraging. 

In current times ANZAC Day is on a much grander scale with parades, commemorative speeches and as a national holiday, there is no school or work. Australia and New Zealand celebrate the men and women who lost their lives at Gallipoli and Lemnos (Lemnos was the ANZAC medical corps. station that had been cut off from supply lines during the winter of the battle, though almost all survived), along with all other ANZAC forces lost during the war. Now Britain does make a point of it in the countries under their control, but the old ideas about Australia can still be felt in some respects –or rather lack thereof.

It is from this celebration that over the past century Australia and New Zealand have set into motion what I call The Gallipoli Effect. Sacrifice equals change, and if enough people care about that, their sacrifice will not be left forgotten or have died in vain. 


Below is a poem of my own writing to represent an ANZAC veteran who is rather upset with how poorly acknowledged the country’s heroes are. I hope this can help readers understand, from the first person perspective, how emotionally affected soldiers (and nurses) were when their time in the limelight came. 



By: Virginia Thorpe


The past is easy to forget,

Especially for those who were never there.

But what about us

Yes us, 

The ones who did the fighting 

And saw the unforgettable. 


April 25th comes around

And soldiers march in formation,

And there are gaps where a man once stood.

He would march there beside them, 

But time has wearied him like it has all.

He may sit on the side lines, 

Or watch from Heaven above. 



When I say this, I mean us,

The ones who were there.

The young cheer as we pass,

Waving banners and 

Throwing poppies in the road.

But do they even know why they are cheering?

For who?

For when?


Australia and New Zealand teach their children

Of the sacrifices their ancestors made. 

But the rest of the world could care less.

We come from ‘the land God created last’

And descend from criminal deportees. 

We made a stand at Gallipoli,

We fought for every inch of land,

But lost, 

So you forget about us.


Sadly, we are being swept from the present, 

Our finals days are coming, and fast. 

Age will take us all if the rest doesn’t, 

And because it wasn’t acceptable to say things then

You forget us now. 

Well, forget about what society is saying, 

I’m speaking now!


We matter and we will be remembered. 

We fought just as the rest did,

And died beside them too.

So remember us, 

Our sacrifice, 

And the real heroes of ANZAC Day. 

Count the dead, salute them. 

Thank the living and remember 

Just how much they have done for you