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Thursday 26 October, 2017
The Australasian Soldiers Dardanelles Memorial was Australia’s first known monument to honor of the ANZACs who fought and died at Gallipoli.
Of course when this monument was unveiled on 7 September 1915 by the Governor General of Australia, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, we didn’t call them ANZACs, and we didn’t strictly refer to the Gallipoli campaign. Rather, we talked about the Australasian soldiers who fought in the Dardanelles.
It was the Governor General of Australia who came here, to South Australia, in the midst of a world war, to unveil this monument. The enormity of this gesture is an indication of the memorial’s significance, not only as a symbolic grave to those who would never come home, but also as a symbol of strength and pride – national pride – of those who continued to fight, and of those mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who supported the war effort from home.
Some gestures of support, like the erection of the monument, were rather grand and enduring, and others were small, fleeting, and modest.
For example, at around this time in 1915, the Socks For Soldiers campaign was launched to improve the lot of those who were still fighting. The Cheer Up Society raised funds by selling violets to establish the soldiers club in Bentham Street to improve the lot of those who had returned.
The Adelaide Advertiser reported on these events in an article published in July 1915, just two months before the unveiling of the memorial. The article read:
“Business as usual. Pleasure as usual. Sport as usual. Nearly everything had been going on as usual – except for the relatives of the men who had fallen at Gallipoli Peninsula.
In the homes of the bereaved – there were vacant chairs. In the hearts – was an aching void. The sight of careless pleasure seekers, going their way untroubled by sorrow, must have made the cup the bitterer for those who grieved for loved ones; who yearned for the sound of a voice – that was still.
The touch of a vanished hand.
Big casualty lists had taught the thoughtful that there were many homes darkened by the shadow of death, but something was required to call the unthinking to a sense of the true position”
At this memorial in 1915 “people paused to think” just as we paused to think last month, and “thinking shared the sorrow of those who were so heavily burdened.”
What this passage impressed upon its audience, and what it compels us toward today, is to employ compassion toward those who died and toward those whose health was sacrificed, in the name of service to Australia.
And not only for the men and women, who served, but for their families.
And not only for those who fought in the Dardanelles, but for those who have fought in all wars, and served in all roles, on behalf of Australia and its people.
To think, to have compassion, and to have a feel for the true position of things, is sure to be the formula for meaningful creation, and it is not surprising that the creation of Australia’s identity, through the spirit of the ANZAC was first memorialised here in South Australia.
It is not surprising because South Australia has a long history of political, social and humanitarian firsts and, at Gallipoli, this was no different.
Amongst the first ashore, at what became known as Anzac Cove, was South Australia’s 10th Battalion, along with the 12th Battalion which was a quarter South Australian.
And it was two South Australians of the 10th Battalion who were recorded as having gone the furthest inland on those hellish shores:
Private Arthur Blackburn, who was later awarded a Victoria Cross, and Lance Corporal Phillip de Quetteville Robin who, like hundreds of other South Australians, later lost his life during the campaign.
These two men were the only Australians, apart from the crew of the AE2 submarine, to ever sight the Dardanelles Straits – the ultimate aim of the whole campaign.
Summoning the courage to go first, the tenacity to go furthest.
To think. To feel. To create. To listen to what is in our hearts, and do what is right.
The Australasian Soldiers Dardanelles Memorial, the first of its kind in the nation, represents and reminds us of all these potentials that exist within us.
And in the words of the governor of the day: “They, the soldiers, every one of them, have earned a place on the walls of the Valhalla of the empire. They have, above all, placed Australia on the pinnacle of fame and have given her a greater name than she ever had before.”