Dawn of the Legend
The story of the Gallipoli landing inspired the legend of ANZAC, which since then has been developed, expanded, embellished, confirmed, and sometimes challenged. It still remains central to many Australians’ self-image.
Before the war a largely urbanised and newly federated nation had looked to its rural environment for its national character. The “bushmen”, and their women, were seen to possess hardiness, democratic spirit, mateship, and resourcefulness.
In 1914, most Australians had high hopes that their soldiers would prove the nation’s worth. These hopes were realised in the colourful descriptions of their men in action following the landing at Gallipoli. The bushmen’s perceived characteristics were now applied, along with dash and courage in battle, to the ANZAC stereotype. These were soon extended to those who served on the Western front, where the term “digger” was also used to describe the Australian soldier.
The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.
A.B. “Banjo” Paterson