East Gippsland ANZACS

Australia goes to war – and East Gippslanders were there

The immediate trigger for World War 1 was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914. Within weeks the major powers were drawn in, and when Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 following its invasion of Belgium, Australia’s government pledged its full support.

New Guinea and the Pacific
On 11 September the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed at Rabaul and took possession of German New Guinea, followed by the neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in October 1914. On 14 November 1914 the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Sydney destroyed the German raider SMS Emden near the Cocos Islands.

The Gallipoli Campaign
On 25 April 1915 members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) landed at Gallipoli together with troops from New Zealand, Britain and France. The battle dragged on for the rest of the year, with the allied troops failing to break through the Turkish lines. The campaign did not achieve any of its objectives and there was an unacceptably high number of casualties, resulting from combat, poor sanitation and hygiene, and a breakdown in the logistics systems.

The troops were evacuated from Gallipoli over the night of 19-20 December 1915, without a single casualty, in an operation designed to deceive the Turks into believing that the trenches were still manned. Following the evacuation from Gallipoli, Australian forces fought in various campaigns on the Western Front and in the Middle East.
 

The Middle East

The Middle East campaign began in 1916 with Australian troops participating in the defence of the Suez Canal and the battle for the Sinai peninsula. In 1917 Australian and other allied troops advanced into Palestine and captured Gaza and Jerusalem, and in 1918, Lebanon and Syria. Turkey surrendered on 30 October 1918.
 
The Western Front

Throughout 1916 and 1917 losses on the Western Front were heavy. In July 1916, the Australian infantry suffered 5,533 casualties at Fromelles. Another 12,133 casualties were suffered at Pozières in the same month. By the end of the year about 40,000 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In 1917 a further 76,836 Australians became casualties in battles, such as Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

In March 1918 the German army launched its final offensive, hoping for victory before the United States entered the war. The Germans initially met with great success, but the offensive lost momentum. Between April and November the allies combined infantry, artillery, tanks, and aircraft more effectively and the tide of the war began to turn in their favour. All five Australian Divisions were involved, as the allies attempted to quell the force of the concerted German attack.
 

The allies Hundred Days Offensive, which included four Australian Divisions, began on 8 August 1918 at Amiens on the Somme, and continued for the next four months. The Australians took part in actions at Lihons, Etinehem, Proyart, Chuignes, Mont St Quentin and Montbrehain, and contributed to the capture of the Hindenburg Line before Germany surrendered on 11 November.
 
The Navy and Airforce
At the outbreak of World War 1, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) had 3,800 personnel and sixteen war ships, including two submarines, with three more destroyers under construction. The RAN took part in battles at sea in the Pacific, East Africa, the Dardanelles and the Atlantic.
Some 3000 Australian airmen also served in the Middle East and France with the newly-formed Australian Flying Corps (AFC), mainly as observers or in providing support to the infantry.

Women at War
Women were heavily involved in the war effort, whether on the home front or overseas. They served as cooks, nurses, drivers, interpreters, in munitions factories and on farms. Nurses in the Australian Army Nursing Service served in Egypt, France, Greece, Salonika and India, often in difficult conditions and/or dangerously close to the front, where they were exposed to shelling and aerial bombardment.

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