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Thomas R Lovett

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Australian Anzac Culture
by Thomas R Lovett   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, June 20, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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Described as disrespectful, undisciplined and uncouth by British officers who feared the “colonials” would wilt in battle and run away. They were badly mistaken.
The Anzacs revealed to the world the true character of Australian ‘colonials’ and the world sat up and took notice and has been doing so ever since.
At Gallipoli the Australian soldier was quickly recognized as the best fighting man ever both by British generals and the enemy, the Turk.
With no respect for persons or positions for their own sake, Australians are suspicious of authority, compassionate for the underdog and generous in taking care of our mates.


Australian Cultural


Tom Lovett

Descended from convicts and early settlers of English and Celtic origin, Tom’s father fought in the First World War. Tom grew up on a farm and attended a one-teacher primary school. He then attended a selective agricultural high school, became a woolclasser in the shearing sheds in outback NSW, was a soldier and then an editor and a consultant.  He is now a writer and broadcaster.  He is father to six and grandfather to twenty three.  Here he writes on the fighting attributes of the Anzacs and their successors.


Our Anzac Culture


Described as disrespectful, undisciplined and uncouth by British officers who feared the “colonials” would wilt in battle and run away. They were badly mistaken. 

The Anzacs revealed to the world the true character of Australian ‘colonials’ and the world sat up and took notice and has been doing so ever since.

At Gallipoli the Australian soldier was quickly recognized as the best fighting man ever both by British generals and the enemy, the Turk.

With no respect for persons or positions for their own sake, Australians are suspicious of authority, compassionate for the underdog and generous in taking care of our mates. 

Present day Australians respect the young men who sacrificed or risked their lives in their prime during the Gallipoli campaign in World War One, in the trenches on the Western Front on Waler horses in the Middle East  and in other campaigns in other wars in which we have fought, and the men and women who are serving Australia in the Middle East, East Timor and the Pacific islands. 

The Turks would attack shouting ‘Allah’.  The Australians would often shout back:  ‘Come on, you bastards.’  Later, a captured Turk asked whether ‘bastards’ was an Australian god.

Writing about the first day of battle, a seasoned Fleet Street journalist, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, began the Anzac legend by an article for British newspapers that was re-printed in the Melbourne Age.  He extolled the valour of the Anzacs  [1].  

As an actual observer, he wrote, “The Australians who were about to go into action for the first time in trying circumstances were cheerful, quiet, and confident.  There was no sign of ‘nerves’, nor of excitement… They did not wait for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, but sprung into the sea and, forming a rough line and rushed the enemy’s trenches.  Their magazines were not charged, so they just went in with cold steel…. I have never seen anything like these Australians in war before.”

Many casualties occurred when disembarking from the ships and landing on the shore from the Turkish gunfire and by drowning.

On the first day fifteen thousand Anzacs were ashore by 6 pm, on 25th.  The Anzacs’ casualties, dead, wounded and missing, on the first day totaled some 2,000.   They wiped out the 57th Turkish regiment of about two thousand men and the 27th Turkish regiment suffered big losses.

Ashmead-Bartlett described the scene early in the morning of 26 April; the Turks repeatedly tried to drive the colonials from their position. The latter made local counter attacks, and drove off the enemy with the bayonet, which the enemy would never face…  The scene at the height of the engagement was somber, magnificent and unique.

As in most wars, more battles are lost in GHQ (General Headquarters) and by governments than on the field of battle.  Militarily it takes a great strategic advantage, such as complete surprise, or a force some three times the size and power of a well placed defending force to overpower it.  Due to poor planning and leadership, the British had only seventy five thousand troops facing a well-informed and well-placed force of forty thousand Turks with reserves of a hundred and ten thousand to draw on.

Leadership failures were not only in underestimating the strengths of enemy forces and overestimating the ability of their own forces.  Other fatal failures were their woefully bad planning, lack of coordination, poor communication, lack of surprise, insufficient artillery weapons and shells, and many other lacks, such as adequate medical and dental services. The nine months campaign achieved nothing for the allies and caused 215 thousand casualties through death, wounds and sickness, including nearly nine thousand Australian and almost three thousand New Zealand dead, plus the loss of six battleships and many transport ships and supplies.   

Their defeat however, restored the pride of the Turkish nation and in the courage of her fighting men.

Commemorating a military disaster is typical for Australians.  The culture of Anzac is the culture of Australia; willingness to face stupendous odds, self-deprecating humour, laughing in the face of tragedy and defeat. Only in laughing at ourselves and at our disasters, whether military, economic, drought or other hardships are we able to rise above them, continue on and face the future.

From his observations of the Australians landing from the ships, British journalist Ashmead-Bartlett wrote, “Though many were shot to bits, without hope of recovery, their cheers resounded throughout the night… There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights and above all, holding on while the reinforcements were landing.”

Australia’s favourite poet, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson[2] described his experience as an officer in the re-mount regiment in the Boer War in There’s Another Blessed Horse Fell Down:[3]

When you’re lying in your hammock, sleeping soft and sleeping sound,
    Without a care or trouble on your mind,
And there’s nothing to disturb you but the engines going round,
    And you’re dreaming of the girl you left behind;
In the middle of your joys you’ll be wakened by a noise,
    And a clatter on the deck above your crown,
And you’ll hear the corporal shout as he turns the picket out,
    ‘There’s another blessed horse fell down.’


You can see ‘em in the morning, when you’re cleaning out the stall,
    A-leaning on the railings nearly dead,
And you reckon by the evening they’ll be pretty sure to fall,
    And you curse them as you tumble into bed.
Oh, you’ll hear it pretty soon, ‘Pass the word for Denny Moon,
    There’s a horse here throwing handsprings like a clown;
And it’s ‘Shove the others back or he’ll cripple half the pack,
    There’s another blessed horse fell down.’


And when the war is over and the fighting all is done,
    And you’re all at home with medals on your chest,
And you’ve learnt to sleep so soundly that the firing of a gun
    At your bedside wouldn’t rob you of your rest;

As you lie in slumber deep, if your wife walks in her sleep,
    And tumbles down the stairs and breaks her crown,
Oh, it won’t awaken you, for you’ll say, ‘It’s nothing new,
    It’s another blessed horse fell down.’


The First World war started when Australia as a nation was only fourteen years old.  Not being full of themselves, as most British generals were, nor believing in the superiority of the British race that seemed to rule the world at that time, Australians and New Zealanders fought ferociously and fairly, with humor and stalwartness.  Far from home and poorly led and poorly supplied by the British, they fought in appalling conditions against the superior placed Turks who were determinedly defending their homeland  and told that if this battle was lost they would be subjugated forever and lose everything.


Moving On:[4] by A.B. (Banjo) Paterson in

In this war we’re always moving,
    Moving on;
When we make a friend another friend has gone;
    Should a woman’s kindly face
Make us welcome for a space,
    Then it’s boots and saddle, boys, we’re
Moving on.


In the hospitals they’re moving,
    Moving on;
They’re here today, tomorrow they are gone;
    When the bravest and the best
Of the boys you know “go west”,
    Then you’re choking down your tears and
Moving on.


No longer ‘colonials’ but retaining the true blue character of ‘colonials’, Australians distinguished themselves on the field of battle since that doomed-from-the-start awful Gallipoli campaign.  Also in most fields, art, business, cinema, science, literature and sport, Australians continue to distinguish themselves, even producing by far the highest number of Nobel Prize winners per capita of any nation in the world.

Who is the true blue Aussie nowadays really?  You cannot describe him and her by ethnicity.  He and she were formed by a mix of genes from different ethnic sources, and we are becoming more mixed so.   The Anglo-Celtic origin of most of the Australian population before World War One has changed dramatically.  While we continue to be influenced by our British origins, such as in government, law, education, culture, religion, Australians have embraced other cultures and religions with enthusiasm. 

With typical Australian ingenuity, in the furnace of this driest continent we have scooped away the dross – class, ritual, superiority, self-importance, pomposity (maybe that’s where we got the label “Pom” for the Brits)  and retained the gold of our mixed inheritance, refined it, alloyed it with gold from other sources and turned it into better bullion.

Neither can you describe a true -blue Aussie by his and her physical characteristics, education or occupation.

You can only tell a true -blue Aussie by his and her ingenuity, tolerance and acceptance of others’ differences, self-deprecating humour, and non-judgementalism -  performance, perseverance, self-confidence and modesty being the only bases for recognition of the worth of a person.  And of course by his and her Aussie accent. 

Main sources:

1.        Carlyon L, Gallipoli, Macmillan, Sydney, 2002

2.        The War Memorial Museum, Canberra. 

3.        Opinions about Australian culture are my own.



Tom's weekly radio programs:  'Recover Your Dream Australia'  8pm Saturdays,  'Ministers Forum' 9pm Wednesdays - on Bathurst Christian Radio LIFE-FM 100.1 ,  <  Email: <>


[1] The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was formed in Egypt and instead of going to the Western Front in France as was expected, the Anzac Corps was sent to the Dardenelles, Turkey.  This was Winston Churchill's ill-fated attempt to open up an Eastern front because of the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front in France and Belgium and to take Turkey out of the war.  The Anzacs were landed along with British and allied troops on the Gallipoli peninsular on 25th April 1915.  The untried Australians and New Zealanders proved to be valiant, brave and highly skilled soldiers.  Ten Victoria Crosses, the highest award for valour presented to all ranks in the British forces, were awarded to the Anzacs, many posthumously.

[2] A legend in his lifetime, , A.B. (Banjo) Paterson died on 5 February 1941. He has become more than a legend – he personifies the Australian spirit and ethos. Author of many poems, ballads, short stories and articles, in 1895 Banjo wrote the lyrics for Waltzing Matilda during a visit with the Macphersons of ‘Dagworth’ Station near Winton, Queensland. Banjo lived the whole gamut of Australian life, from bush boy who rode a pony to a bush school in Binalong, to accomplished Sydney sportsman, amateur jockey and polo player. After matriculating from Sydney Grammar he trained as a solicitor. During the depression and bank bust in the 1890s, his work involved "dreary days when the banks themselves had to shut. “For months I did nothing but try to screw money out of people who had not got any.”

Later The Banjo became a journalist, novelist, war correspondent, ambulance driver, major commanding the Australian Remount Unit in WWI, and squatter. He befriended Henry Lawson and was his legal mentor. He was admired by Rudyard Kipling and a house guest of this great English poet. The London Times said The Banjo was Kipling's equal and "without parallel in Colonial literary annals, with a wider public than any English or American poet except Kipling." The Banjo helped to make the Australian legend and preserve our culture in Australian Bush Songs which he collected over several years and published in 1905.

America's top cowboy poet, Baxter Black, rates The Banjo as the world's greatest ‘cowboy poet’. Whenever he wants to revive his love and skill in rhyming verse Baxter reads The Banjo's work. "He is the best of all folk-poets, the master and my mentor," says Baxter.

The Australian Bush Poets Association follows in the tradition of The Banjo at festivals such as the National Folk Festival held in Canberra over Easter each year (see Some members specialize in performing verse by The Banjo and Henry Lawson. The Association aims to keep the Bush Poetry tradition alive, has over five hundred active members and holds monthly meetings right across Australia. The Association's website is


[3] From The Bulletin, May 19, 1900

[4] From The Kia-Ora Cooee, May 1918

Tom's weekly radio programs:  'Recover Your Dream Australia'  8pm Saturdays,  'Ministers Forum' 9pm Wednesdays - on Bathurst Christian Radio LIFE-FM 100.1 ,  <  Email: <>





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Reviewed by Thomas Lovett
Nice to know the Oz tradition is alive and well... Not sure what you mean by disconnected... We Ozzies do not go much on the American verbosity in books and articles. Keep to the point is our credo. Allow the reader's imagination to fill in any blanks. Good on you for keeping you cool under the Cockatoo's 'fire' and so saving you own skin. Just like and ozzie. Tom
Reviewed by Kalikiano Kalei
Although the content seems in places to be a bit disconnected, Tom, I found your comments on ANZAC culture to be of considerable interest. As a military historian (although more specifically focused on aerospace subjects), I am well aware of the ANZAC contributions to the Entent Cordiale and its campaign against the Turks in the First World War. By coincidence, I had several flatmates while in Saudi Arabia who were from Oz (and NZ). Always found them to be the best mates one could hope for, given their refusal to be overawed by anything that smacked of pretense and their keen discernment of one's actual (inner) qualities right a the git-go. Although I came VERY close to murdering one of my mate's Cockatoos (he was a bloody nuisance!), I'm forever glad I didn't, since one night while we were all sleeping, that bird's screams woke us all up just before the flat was totally engulfed by a shorted-out wiring fire. We also had a foppish pommy flatmate who was an absolute wuse, but I fixed his wagon good one day by brewing American style coffee in his precious, pristine teapot, hee-hee.... (he never quite got over the shock of that treachery). Thanks for some interesting reading, Tom.
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