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Reflections on Anzac Day

By David Fisher - posted Friday, 24 April 2015

Anzac day is on the date that the Anzacs landed on the beach at Gallipoli in 1915. Fierce fighting against the Turkish forces followed. However, in a previous war Australians fought on the side of Turkey. In the game of war allies in one war can be enemies in another war.

In the Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) Britain allied with Turkey and others fought Russia. The immediate cause of the war involved the rights of Christian minorities in Palestine then controlled by Turkey. Although Russia lost the war the Orthodox church gained control of the Christian churches in dispute. This showed that the immediate cause was not the real cause.

The actual cause was British and French opposition to Russia gaining power and territory at the expense of a weakening Turkish Empire. Although the Turks gained twenty years respite from Russian pressure their defeat in WW1 saw the Turkish domains reduced to Anatolia.


Hundreds of Australians are believed to have joined British regiments, but most of Australia was not involved in that war. However, a few individuals spoke out against offering Britain even moral support. One of them was the Reverend Dr. John Dunmore Lang, a Presbyterian minister in Sydney, who recommended that the Australian colonies should declare neutrality and not be dragged into every conflict that Britain had with other European powers. Charles Gavan Duffy, the premier of Victoria, also called for a neutral Australia in 1870 when he chaired the royal commission on colonial defence.

Tennyson celebrated the heroism of the charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War in poesy. His poem contained the lines:

Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,

If the masses of Britain and France who supported the war had reasoned why, there would have been no war. The heroism and tragedy of the Light Brigade would not have happened.

Between the Crimean War and the cataclysm of WW1 there were those who were aware of pressures leading to war and the senselessness of people doing their best to kill people who might have been their friends under other circumstances. Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) published in1909:

The Man He Killed

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!


But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because -
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like - just as I -
Was out of work - had sold his traps -
No other reason why.

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About the Author

David Fisher is an old man fascinated by the ecological implications of language, sex and mathematics.

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