It has often been said that Australia came of age on a Turkish shore one morning some 14 years after Federation. That may be true and perhaps this is why we hold Anzac Day in such high regard in our national calendar. It certainly is not to celebrate a great military victory, because the landing and subsequent battle at Gallipoli was definitely not that.
So, on 25 April we commemorate the anniversary of the day Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915 as part of the Allies’ invasion. On that day Australians recognise the more than 1.5 million men and women who have served Australia in conflicts, wars and peacekeeping operations around the world. It is especially a time to remember some 102,000 Australians who lost their lives while serving.
Anzac Day is one of our most significant and sacred national days. It is the day our nation remembers it owes an enormous debt of gratitude to all those who have served our nation, and those who have given their lives in defence of Australia, our freedoms and our values.
What is not widely known is the role played, after war was declared, by many members of the rifle clubs across Australia at the time. Australian rifle shooters willingly and in large numbers answered the ‘call to arms’ eagerly volunteering to do their duty and in so doing were actively involved in ‘defining our great nation’.
In the early 1900s many Australian country towns had rifle clubs and these clubs were an integral part of the social fabric of these small communities. The consequences of the Great War were enormous and many of our small towns were afflicted with the persistent pain of losing much loved members of their communities.
As we look towards the Anzac Day commemoration in 2023, I ask all National Rifle Association of Australia clubs and members to remember and reflect on the commitments made by our club members during the Great War and the conflicts that followed, some of which resulted in the ultimate sacrifice.
We recall shooters who died during the Great War, such as Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Harris, Chairman of the Queensland Rifle Association 1911-12 and Commanding Officer of 5th Light Horse Regiment, who was killed at Gallipoli on 13th July. And also 22 year old Alexander Madden Foot, a Townsville Rifle Club member and the Assistant Groom to Lieutenant Colonel Harris, who was killed at Gallipoli on 22nd November 1915. There were many more not so well known rifle shooters who lost their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms and lifestyles we have today.
One largely forgotten rifle club member but an extraordinarily determined and talented individual was Captain Edward Frederick Robert Bage. He was killed at Gallipoli within two weeks of the landing aged 27 years. Mrs Lyn Cramp, QRA Researcher, has carefully assembled the many events that made up Bage’s short life. His inspirational life story gives an insight into the courage and selflessness displayed by so many rifle club members who served during the Great War and the conflicts that followed.
We must never forget the sacrifices made by Australians during the Great War and all other conflicts that followed. Equally, we must never take for granted the losses suffered by the families that lived on without their loved ones after the various conflicts ended.
Today, ANZAC Day is set aside for us to remember those, including our rifle club members, who have served our country in all conflicts, to reflect upon their unselfish service and to embrace the history that has defined our country – at this time each year we keep that history alive through reflecting on the past.
LEST WE FORGET