In keeping with previous years, the April meeting had an ANZAC DAY theme. Meredith Aveling kindly brought along sprigs of Rosemary to share amongst attendees, and with the A Cappella choir dressed in black & red with poppies the scene was set.
Janet Bagnall accompanied the BBC’s one and only A Cappella choir as they began the evening singing ‘Thank you, Soldiers’ & ‘In Flanders Field’.
Sandy Longworth was our special ‘Storyteller’ for the evening, and had prepared a wonderful PowerPoint presentation with the help of his daughter Emma. The slides comprised some which were taken when Sandy and two of his sons, Hugh and William, took him to Gallipoli about 10 years ago. They covered the Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay. These were all scenes of action during the Gallipoli offensive. It was a 3-day comprehensive private tour of battle sites led by Kenan Celik AM, Turkish academic from University of Canakkale who has been acknowledged by Australian Department of Veteran affairs.
Sandy spoke about:
- the Turkey and Ottoman Empire leading up to Gallipoli Campaign
- the Gallipoli Campaign covering British, Anzacs, French and Turkish involvement accompanied with slides
- Sandy’s ‘hero’, his father Roley, and some of his stories (he did not speak about it much, as it was very tough, but wrote a few very informative letters which were not subject to censors when he was in hospital in Cairo)
- his father’s life connected with Military and medicine. Roley’s life in a sense was made by WWI. He remained a devoted ‘Digger’ and was the ‘Diggers’ doctor for both WWI and WWII diggers.
Sandy handed out a transcript of a letter written by his grandmother requesting that her only surviving son, Roland, be granted a discharge (a copy of the original letter is included with photographs at the rear of these Minutes).
The presentation was most informative, and it was obvious that Sandy knew his subject extremely well, with hardly any need to refer to his notes to check dates and names of officers etc. As Sandy confirmed the campaign was a failure but the brilliant part from his perspective was the evacuation. Interestingly enough was how the Turks are just as keen as Australia about remembering Gallipoli. One particular photo of Sandy’s shows a huge monument dug into the escarpment.
It was on the beach at Gallipoli that Sandy reasonably speculates the origin of the expression ’digger’ was applied to ANZAC troops in general. Following the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 General Sir Ian Hamilton wrote to General William Birdwood, the commander of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), adding in a postscript: “You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe.”
The choir and audience concluded the evening singing several songs familiar to everyone:
- ‘Lili Marlene’
- ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’
- ‘Pack-up your troubles’ & ‘A long way to Tipperary’
- ‘We’ll meet again’
- ‘I still call Australia home’
A special thanks to Sandy for his well-prepared presentation and to the entertainment from the A Cappella choir led by Janet B (who generously rearranged her social calendar to be present on the evening).