Desert train­ing pre­pares troops

Central and North Burnett Times - - REAL ESTATE -

WHILE the de­ci­sions about where and when the An­zacs would fight were be­ing made at the high­est lev­els, the sol­diers them­selves were be­ing put to the test with train­ing in the Egyp­tian desert.

Since the 1st Aus­tralian Di­vi­sion had ar­rived in Egypt in early De­cem­ber, its troops had spent at least eight hours train­ing ev­ery day but Sun­day, of­ten hav­ing to march sev­eral miles in the soft sand wear­ing full kit packs just to get to their train­ing grounds.

In his Of­fi­cial His­tory of Aus­tralia in the War of 1914–18, Charles Bean wrote: “All day long, in ev­ery val­ley of the Sa­hara for miles around the Pyra­mids, were groups or lines of men ad­vanc­ing, re­tir­ing, drilling, or squat­ted near their piled arms lis­ten­ing to their of­fi­cer.”

One thing on the side of the An­zacs – many of whom had come from a his­tory of hard work on farms and in trades – was their phys­i­cal size.

“Sub­se­quently many vis­i­tors from Great Bri­tain and the Western Front de­clared that the Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders in Egypt and Gal­lipoli were the big­gest men that they had seen in any force,” Bean wrote.

But it takes more than size to fight a war. The An­zacs had big hearts and had the ben­e­fit of six weeks train­ing at home, six weeks on the sea voy­age, and up to four months in Egypt.

Bean re­marked: “A Bri­tish of­fi­cer on (Anzac com­man­der) Gen­eral Bird­wood’s staff said that a bet­ter di­vi­sion than the 1st Aus­tralian had never gone to bat­tle. (Their train­ing) was one of the finest achieve­ments in the his­tory of the AIF.”

PHOTO: AWM PS0760

TRAIN­ING: Aus­tralian in­fantry troops in the desert near Mena camp, Egypt.

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