Anzac Day

While most people enjoy the day off which Anzac Day affords, probably very few actually know what the day signifies. Some may know that it is celebrated every year on April 25. Some may know it has something to do with the battle at Gallipoli in Turkey in WWI. And some may know that the acronym stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

But few would know the Christian connection, and the Israel connection. The Anzacs in fact had much to do with the founding of the modern nation of Israel, and there is much of importance in this past history which Christians should be aware of.

One person who has done much to explore Australia’s Christian history in general and the Anzac tradition in particular is Kelvin Crombie. He has written books, produced documentary DVDs, and personally led guided tours of the Holy Land over the past several decades.

What follows is a rather heavily edited version of one of Crombie’s pieces, which helps us to get some sense of the historical connection here between the Anzacs and Israel.

It was very ‘coincidental’ that this strategic region [in the Middle East] was sandwiched between Britain and her Eastern Empire, which included Australia and New Zealand. The land of Israel in particular was in fact a strategic buffer zone through millennia. It was a land between Empires, in antiquity between empires to the north and south, but in the modern period between the European empires and their developing colonies in the Far East.

And it was also ‘coincidental’ that at the same time as these geo-political activities were taking place in the nineteenth century, there was a huge amount of interest within the upper levels of British evangelical Christian circles in the future restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. These Christians believed that Israel must be restored before Jesus would return to reign from Jerusalem. And many of these ‘restorationists’ were Anglican leaders – with influence in government circles.

By the turn of the twentieth century Turkey was seeking a European ally, other than Britain, France or Russia. That ally was Germany. This relationship culminated in late 1914 with Turkey choosing to join with the German/Austro-Hungarian Alliance in the First World War. And this occurred at the very time that the first convoy of Anzac troops was making its way towards the Eastern Mediterranean.

This Turkish-German alliance was dangerous for the Allied cause, especially for Britain’s Russian ally. By late 1914 Russian troops were encountering difficulties against these forces and sought help from their allies.

The British and French then began planning to take supplies to Russia. However to do this they first had to get through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus under the very guns of Constantinople itself. This would require a military campaign and they would need to capture those very same regions from the Turks.

By early 1915 the newly-arrived Australian and New Zealand soldiers became part of this plan, being called upon to fight alongside British, French and Indian troops, and a few Zionist soldiers from Palestine (who had been ousted by the Turks), to capture at the first instance, the Dardanelles Peninsular.

Herein lies the beginning point of what culminated in October 1917 with the issuing of the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s promise of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. And this beginning point was the forthcoming Gallipoli campaign – which also just happened to be the beginning of our Anzac tradition, and in the words of the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, the beginning of Australian nationhood.

All of these political considerations, however, were far from the minds and attention of the young Anzac soldiers as they stormed the beaches of Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and as they fought for survival during the following eight months.

The military campaign at Gallipoli was a failure. In December 1915 the Anzac troops were withdrawn back to Egypt, to be rested and then to be sent on to France. Many Turkish troops at Gallipoli were also withdrawn, and their main goal now was the capture or destruction of the Suez Canal.

On that crucial day British infantry attacked Beersheba from the south and west and gained their positions. Most of the casualties on this crucial day were by the British infantry. Then New Zealanders captured the strategic ancient Beersheba, Tel es Saba in the mid afternoon. Later that afternoon up to 800 Australian light horsemen of the 4th Light Horse Brigade courageously charged in from the east and completed the victory which had been set up by the rest of the EEF soldiers earlier in the day.

Meanwhile in far away London, the British War Cabinet debated the political future of the land of Israel pending its capture. At almost the same time as the final victory was won on the ground at Beersheba, the War Cabinet almost unanimously agreed to the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Was all this coincidental or was there some hand guiding, almost simultaneously, soldiers on the ground and politicians in the meeting room?

Crombie then discusses further developments, including the Second World War and the establishment of Israel in 1948. He then concludes this way:

It is apparent from this brief analysis that there has been an amazing dynamic between the Anzac soldiers of both world wars and the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Surely this aspect must be one of the most interesting, if not significant, of our many achievements during these conflicts.

It is perhaps incumbent in these days for our country to give due consideration to this dynamic, and to ensure we don’t squander what those brave soldiers achieved, both on the battlefield and in their social interaction with the Jewish population.

Unfortunately our government has not always been supportive of Israel since it gained nationhood in 1948. Some would say that Israel often makes it difficult to support it. This may be true on occasion. However, we as a sovereign nation need to consider the incredible forces opposing the very existence of tiny Israel, forces which our country has never had to face, except in part from the Japanese threat during World War Two.

The Islamic world, for example, basically doesn’t just want to see Israel pushed back to its pre-1948 borders. With a few exceptions, they refuse to recognize Israel’s very right to exist. The issue therefore is not Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem. They see the very existence of Israel as a threat.

We need to be diligent, firstly on the home front, against any forces which would want to take away our treasured freedoms of speech and behaviour – and our Judeo-Christian heritage. And secondly we need to give attention to the world front. And one of our main priorities should be the safety and integrity of Israel.

Now this does not mean that we agree with every policy of the Israeli Government. They make mistakes, just like ours does. Which of us agrees with every decision and policy of our own Government? The main difference, though, is that we are not surrounded by entities which want to destroy us. And even if we were, we have a large mass of water which protects us from such entities, and a large land mass to melt into if the need arises.

Israel does not have either. Israel could be fitted some 360 times into Australia! So, as Hitler had a goal of world-wide domination, and within that goal to destroy the Jewish people, we today need to be mindful of other entities which may have a similar double-edged goal.

In conclusion, therefore, it could almost be said that Israel is our front line today. If Israel falls, we may very well feel the brunt of an assault similar to, and perhaps even worse than, the regimes that we fought and prevailed against during both World Wars.

I encourage you to read the full article, linked to below. Happy Anzac Day.

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21 Replies to “Anzac Day”

  1. Bill, thanks for a good informative article. Anti-Semitism is apparently rife throughout the Arab world. I found it interesting to find out that in some countries in the Middle East that their political parties have Nazi roots. I think they were set up by the Nazi Party. Also the most popular books are The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, followed by Hitler’s Mien Kampf. What does it matter if the United Nations in September forces a Palestine State if the Palestinian people themselves and groups such as Hamas will not recognise Israel? We can only guess what may happen but from my basic observation, I think our governments and our media are making Israel to be the villains in the peace process.
    Carl Strehlow

  2. What a timely article Bill and reference to Crombie’s research. The article is a riveting read.

    The Arab and Iranian Muslims have continually been the enemy of the Jews since the beginning of the twentieth century, on the global stage. I now see that our troops fought and died to protect our Judeo-Christian heritage.

    Now our blindsided Government in the name of “anti – discrimination” and a loaded UN Charter allows these self confessing opponents to Israel and all infidels, into our country without challenging their allegiance to another authority that openly does not agree with our values, law, or politics. What short term cowardice.

    Ray Robinson

  3. Hi Bill.
    I find it interesting how Turkey is now rapidly moving away from the influence of the west and towards a form of radical Islam. I maybe wrong but it always seemed the Turks that fought the Anzac’s displayed a certain amount of decency and character. Perhaps that is about to disappear?
    It appears of the eight countries named in the bible that come down to destroy Israel in the last days five are located in present day Turkey.
    In my mind we could possibly be witnessing the arising of a beastly world power far worse than in the past.
    Rob Withall

  4. A PS.
    We better be on our toes and identify with Israel because in the last days to be identified with them is to be identified with their God. Nations will be judged upon their treatment of this people, as everything is condensed down to how they treat these his chosen people.
    Zechariah 12:2-3 14:2 Joel 3:2–There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel.Joel 4, 9-12
    Rev 13:7 and Mathew 25:31 to the end of the chapter–All the nations will be gathered before him for judgment. It is the issue of Israel in the end that reveals all hearts. Even to the point of martyrdom for the believers if they refuse to bow down to the false god.
    Two clear cut choices with no fence sitting allowed.
    Just like Jesus as the rock many stumble over, likewise nations are brought to the valley of decision over Israel.
    This is why in my opinion the scriptures tell us that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy in Revelation.
    Rob Withall

  5. Bill,
    I have had the Privilege in Meeting Kelvin Crombie over The Years. To me he Gives Insight about Israel & Australia’s Contribution towards Israel’s Establishment.
    Gregson C Meston

  6. Bill I know Christians who believe that Christians are now Israel and that prophecies refering to God’s people, Israel now refer to God’s people, the church. Others hold that Israel is still God’s special nation despite her rejection, for the most part, of the Messiah.

    What is the Biblical view of modern Israel?
    Kylie Anderson

  7. I should have known you would have already written about it.

    Thanks Bill.

    Kylie Anderson

  8. I have come across a very neat summary of the situation regarding Israel:
    The first world war prepared the country for the people. The second world war prepared the people for the country.

    There are a number of books which outline the significant part the Australia Light Horse played in the liberation of Beersheba, which was the key battle for the capture of Palestine:

    The Australian Light Horse, by Roland Perry
    Beersheba A journey through Australia’s forgotten war, by Paul Daley
    800 Horsemen God’s History Makers, Col Stringer

    Gary Baxter

  9. Thanks Bill – you might be interested to know that my Uncle Harold Michael Hogan (Uncle Mick to us) was part of the Light Horse brigade in Beersheba – he joined the AIF aged just 16 years with my father Matthew Hiram Hogan agd 17 years. Mick was a camel trooper and only days after his 18th Birthday he was killed in that Light Horse sortie in Beersheba – his body was buried by the Turks and his name is memoralized in Israel. My Dad returned to OZ after he was wounded in France but died of war injuries when I was 8 years old. LEST WE FORGET.
    Patti Smith

  10. The history of Anzac day has had a strong christian influence in more ways than one. The first dawn service which are now a feature of the day was started by Christians in Albany WA.

    In Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day commemoration features solemn “Dawn Services” or “Dawn Parades”, a tradition started in Albany, Western Australia on 25 April 1923 and now held at war memorials around both countries, accompanied by thoughts of those lost at war to the ceremonial sounds of The Last Post on the bugle. The fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen (known as the “Ode of Remembrance”, or simply as “the Ode”) is often recited

    Warwick Marsh

  11. At the Canberra war memorial service part of the poem “flanders fields” was read and what struck me was the line “if you break faith with us who died…” I wonder were they alive today, would they say we have broken faith with them in the sense that we have not or at least not successfully defended the values they fought and died for?
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  12. Thanks for this informative article. This was interesting to read today, since I had a great Uncle who died at Gallipoli.

    What to make of developments in modern day Turkey?

  13. It’s true, we must keep raising awareness. It seems many know/talk about Galipolli, but nothing about Beersheeva.
    We had the privilege of attending a Commemorative service in Oct 2010 in Beersheeva. A guy shook Ian’s hand when he found out we were from Australia and stated “you are very welcome in this land”. Such a blessing we should not ignore.

  14. Thank you Bill for linking all of the loose ends most of us know a little about.
    The true meaning of our Anzac Day remembrance celebrations must be instilled in every Australian and New Zealander. Your point of projecting the preciously won gains in the Middle East conflicts over the passed century certainly are of utmost importance to our Christian understanding of the conflict still being fought today. Lest we forget, the lives given for out freedom, we must stand to behold what was gained.
    Wilhelmus Heggers.

  15. Most Aussies have no idea, but Muslims know that Anzac day, Gallipolli and Beersheva and the 800 horsemen flies in the face of creeping sharia. The restoration of Israel is one of the greatest defeats of modern Islam – and they know it.
    Shame how far we have fallen – it is hard to imagine how God could use young Aussies today like they were used back then. But “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
    At least we celebrate a military defeat, instead of a “star spangled banner” self glorification like 4th of July. Ours is a humble remembrance. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

  16. Biil, your incisive suggestion that ” … Israel is our [ie Australia’s] front line today …” is one which the great Frank Knopfelmacher would have supported. [more news about that always-important observer will be available later this year.]

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