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The Anzac Legend- the Maltese Contribution.

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 at 18:53

The Anzac Legend
Maltese Contribution at Gallipoli

by
Frank L Scicluna
(Adelaide-Australia 1997)
 

Each year Australia commemorates the anniversary of Anzac Day on the 25th of April as the day when Anzacs landed onto the beaches of Gallipoli. The courage, honesty, endurance, resourcefulness and loyalty of Anzacs became an inspiration to this young nation.
 
Each year Australians commemorate this day in Australia and overseas, mainly at Anzac Cove (Gallipoli - Turkey) with great pride and respect to its great sons of Anzacs. They recall that from the deeds and sacrifices of the Anzacs at Gallipoli there emerged a powerful sense of Australian identity and culture.
 
In  fact,  the  young  Turkish soldiers on one

 

side and the young Australian soldiers on the other, were both innocent victims of cruel and imperialist policies of the major super powers of that time. All the wars are unjustifiable and evil but this one was also an unofficial announcement of the birth of two nations: Australians from a British colony and Turks from a collapsing Ottoman Empire. Australians, fought against the enemy, alongside with the British Empire Army and Navy in the land of Turks - Anatolia.
 
The tragedy of Gallipoli, the history and the events of 1915, does not diminish with the passing of the years.  Gallipoli  emains an unforgettable part of the military heritage of Britain, Australia and New Zealand,

and of many regiments and naval units that took part. It was the most

 

infamous holocaust the world has ever known.
 
Just the name Dardanelles has an enigmatic sound to it. This narrow strategic passage from the warm waters of the Mediterranean, through the sea of Marmara, and from there through the even narrower Bosphorus to the Black Sea, provides Russia's only year round ice free access to the world's oceans, an access historically coveted by the Russians and a cause of the Crimean war - another British amphibious operation of disastrous magnitude.
 
This waterway was also the historic crossing for invaders from Asia into Europe. At the narrows near Canakkale, known as Hellespont, the Persian King Xerxes built a bridge of boats to launch his invasion of Greece. Centuries before the Trojan War was fought at the entrance to the Dardanelles

 

 
The combined British, French New Zealand and Australian troops landed at dawn of the 25 April 1915. They landed along a dangerous coastline and were met with devastating resistance by the Turkish army who were at a very advantageous point on the hillside. The Anzacs landed on the eastern side as part of an operation involving 75,000 troops. Something went horribly and tragically wrong. The plan was that the troops land close to an open plane but instead they found themselves a mile north to the north and facing steeply rising ridges and gorges.
 
Initially, their plan was to surprise the enemy at dawn but instead they found themselves on the firing line from the Turkish defenders. 2000 of the 16,000 Anzacs were killed on the first day. Among those who died at Anzac Cove during this terrible siege was a Maltese/Australian soldier by the name of Charles Bonavia. His body, like many others, was never found.
 

Several Maltese/Australians, including fought side by side with the Australian troops. Bonavia was born in Malta in 1888. His father was the registrar at the Malta Law Courts and his grandfather rose to the rank of Colonel in the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Bonavia studied architecture at the University of Malta and migrated to Australia in 1911.
 
He joined the 11th Battalion 3rd Infantry Brigade and sailed with his regiment from Fremantle to Egypt on 2 November 1914. Bonavia's name is included in the list of the fallen soldiers at Lone Pine and also at the National War Memorial in Canberra. Other Maltese whose names are forever recorded at Helles Memorial overlooking the Dardanelles  are  Major  Herbert  Sammut who died when he was in command of Essex

 

Charles Bonavia

Regiment and Lieutenant Herbert Huber. Huber was a member of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers and was killed few  hours  before  the  British  forces  successfully  evacuated  from  the Turkish soil. Unfortunately, their remains were never discovered.
 

Captain Henry Curmi, who fought at Gallipoli in 1915 and many years later was appointed
Malta's High Commissioner in Australia

 

Many other Maltese migrants were among the casualties at Gallipoli. According to the Maltese historian, John Mizzi, there were 800 Maltese labourers serving under Maltese officers in Gallipoli. A young private, Giuseppe Camilleri, was 27 years old when he was killed in enemy action. He was buried close to the beach at Ari Burnu cemetery, near Anzac Cove (Row J, Grave4).
 
Indeed, Malta played a significant role in the Gallipoli campaign, not only as a back up base for the royal navy but also as one of the major hospitals in the Mediterranean. There were also convalescent centres and looked after 58,000 servicemen wounded during the World War I.
 
There are 1500 British and 202 Australian servicemen and 72 New Zealanders buried in Malta as well as French, Indians and Egyptians together with 26 Turkish prisoners. This was Malta's greatest contribution to the Allied's efforts during this terrible war.
 
The early Maltese settlers have indeed given their contribution to preserve freedom and democracy in their adopted home- Australia. Let us hope that the nations of the earth are emerging from the self-destructive practices of enmity and will build, in sunlight, a world of peace, democracy and social justice.

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