The bat­tle that shaped a na­tion

Our An­zac cen­te­nary se­ries launches to­day

South Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRISTINA ONGLEY

Jack Hunter died fight­ing for the Al­lied Forces on Bel­gium’s front line dur­ing the Great War. His story, along with many oth­ers, is be­ing told now – 100 years later – in hon­our of their sac­ri­fice. Over the com­ing months lo­cal sto­ries will mark the cen­te­nary of the war and its im­pact on the peo­ple of the South Bur­nett.

ONE HUN­DRED years ago, the world changed for­ever.

With the as­sas­si­na­tion of Aus­trian Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand and wife So­phie by Serb na­tion­al­ist Gavrilo Prin­cip in Sara­jevo a month ear­lier, Aus­tria-Hun­gary had the rea­son it had been look­ing for to strike against Ser­bia.

The Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian lead­er­ship had sus­pected the Ser­bian govern­ment of fu­elling a wave of na­tion­al­ism be­lieved to be desta­bil­is­ing its in­flu­ence in the Balkans, and – fol­low­ing a month of threats and ul­ti­ma­tums is­sued by var­i­ous Euro­pean pow­ers – war was de­clared.

But this was not a sim­ple mat­ter of one coun­try ver­sus another.

A com­plex and decades-old sys­tem of treaties and al­liances among the ma­jor pow­ers in Europe had meant that once one coun­try had de­clared war, oth­ers would be forced into sup­port­ing their al­lies.

The Dual Al­liance had been formed be­tween Ger­many and Aus­tria-Hun­gary in 1879 and, on the un­der­stand­ing this would be a de­fen­sive al­liance, they were later joined by Italy.

In 1907, the Triple En­tente was formed be­tween the Bri­tish Em­pire, the Rus­sian Em­pire and France.

And so it was that Aus­tria-Hun­gary’s strike against Ser­bia ig­nited a chain of war dec­la­ra­tions, draw­ing much of Europe into a full-scale con­flict the likes of which had never been seen be­fore.

What would later be coined as the Great War would leave more than 16 mil­lion dead and more than 20 mil­lion wounded.

Aus­tralia was in the mid­dle of a fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign when war broke out, and the two lead­ers of the main par­ties were quick to pledge their sup­port for the Bri­tish Em­pire.

On July 31, the day af­ter the Aus­tralian Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral re­ceived ad­vice that war was im­mi­nent, then La­bor leader, An­drew Fisher, spoke the fa­mous words vow­ing to de­fend Bri­tain: “Aus- tralians will stand be­side our own to help and de­fend her to our last man and our last shilling.”

Two days later, a se­cret al­liance be­tween Ger­many and the Ot­toman Em­pire would be the cat­a­lyst for the first bat­tle the young Aus­tralian na­tion would fight for the “Mother Coun­try” – forg­ing the leg­endary and last­ing spirit of An­zac.

The Ot­toman Em­pire – with Turkey at its heart – lay in ru­ins. Hav­ing lost sev­eral con­flicts and ter­ri­to­ries to go with it, it was in des­per­ate need of friends. Strate­gi­cally im­por­tant be­cause of its link be­tween Europe and Asia, al­low­ing ac­cess up to the Rus­sian Em­pire through the pas­sages to the Black Sea, and with Greece con­stantly breath­ing down its neck to cap­ture ter­ri­tory – Turkey was at a cross­roads.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Talat Pasha later wrote: “Turkey needed to join one of the coun­try groups so that it could or­gan­ise its do­mes­tic ad­min­is­tra­tion, strengthen and main­tain its com­merce and in­dus­try, ex­pand its rail­roads.”

Ger­many saw an op­por­tu­nity to gain eas­ier ac­cess to its African colonies and In­dian trade routes.

Thus, when a plan would later be hatched to at­tack Turkey on the Gal­lipoli Penin­sula, the Bri­tish – sup­ported by troops from Aus­tralia, New Zealand and France – would find them­selves fac­ing a Turk­ish force backed up by the ca­pa­ble and pow­er­ful Ger­mans.

When An­drew Fisher be­came the Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter on Septem­ber 17, he stood be­hind his pledge to de­fend Bri­tain by cre­at­ing the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force. Thou­sands upon thou­sands of young Aus­tralian men would sign up. Of the al­most 417,000 men who would en­list, more than 60,000 would be killed and about 156,000 would be wounded, gassed or taken pris­oner. And that was from a pop­u­la­tion of fewer than five mil­lion peo­ple.

NEXT, ON AU­GUST 12: The recruitment for troops be­gins

Pic­ture: Lyn Fels­man.

PHO­TOS: COURTESY OF AUS­TRALIAN WAR MEMO­RIAL H11612

MO­MEN­TOUS TIME: Crowds wait out­side the of­fices of the Mel­bourne Ar­gus news­pa­per await­ing news of the out­break of the war in Europe.

Fol­low our se­ries mark­ing key mile­stones in the build-up to the Gal­lipoli cen­te­nary

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