Australia’s Enormous Sacrifice

by Ted Sorensen

In 1914 Australia was a young country and still a dominion of the British Empire. So when Britain declared war, this tiny country of fewer than five million was automatically at war as well.

Thousands of young men rushed to volunteer in aid of King and country. To many it would have seemed like a great opportunity for adventure – they didn’t fully comprehend the horrors of war.

For Australia, the First World War remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

In Fromelles in July 1916 Australian troops suffered 5,533 casualties in 24 hours. 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 Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres known ​as the battle of Passchendaele. ​

Australian women volunteered for service in auxiliary roles: as cooks, nurses, drivers, interpreters, munitions workers, and farm workers. Australian nurses served in Egypt, France, Greece, and India, often in trying conditions or close to the front, where they were exposed to shelling and aerial bombardment as well as outbreaks of disease.

At the conclusion of the War many men and women returned home bearing scars – physical and emotional – of their service. It was a defining moment in the life of our young country.

I encourage you to attend an Anzac Day Service in our community this year to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all Australians who have served our country with distinction and honour.

To learn more about the Anzacs, visit anzacportal.dva.gov.au

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