WWI (Australia, Turkey, and New Zealand) #1

So if there’s any historical event involving Australia and New Zealand that you’ve heard of, it’s probably Gallipoli.┬áIf you haven’t, then you’re missing a key piece of Australian and New Zealander history.

Before WWI, Australia had seen pretty much no major battles (happens when you’re off at the far away corner of a map). New Zealand had the occasional battle during the 19th century, but it was nothing like WWI. There’s a good reason for that; WWI was like nothing the world had ever seen.

Anyway, so when WWI came around, Britain was in need of troops. Conveniently, they had a number of colonies that they could put to use. There were Indian troops pulled in, Canadians, Irish, folks from every corner of Britain, and of course, Australia and New Zealand, among others.

Thing was, of course, none of the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) troops were prepared for warfare. So they had to hop on ships and go over to Egypt to train.

Meantime, there’s a problem that Britain and its allies have encountered, and its name is the Ottoman Empire (aka Turkey and its holdings). The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire (a number of empires were still around at this point) plus their allies.

Attacks towards Germany weren’t doing so hot. Britain and its allies reached the conclusion that attacking Germany’s allies (who were weaker, generally speaking) was a good way to get to Germany and cause a lot of problems for it.

So the plan to take the Gallipoli (which is in Turkey) peninsula was born. The Anzacs were to land at Gallipoli, and the British-French troops at another point.

Course, this plan had several flaws in the actual doing of it.

For one thing, the landing was missed. It was done at night, which caused some confusion.

More importantly, there were Turkish troops who were ready and willing to fight back.

The landing became mass chaos, with men fighting just to get to the shore. Many of the men in charge were shot, which led to another problem: the spots they were going to reach originally were not reasonable goals anymore. So, the few remaining in charge chose a different line to hold.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be communicated to many troops, who valiantly tried to push out to the old points, and were lost.

So you’ve got a smaller amount of men than was planned on, holding a tenuous line against an enemy in the dark.

But hold it they did. Despite large losses and general confusion, the Anzacs took the beach. Several days after the bloodbath was over, there was a sort of truce between the two sides: they could leave their posts without fear of getting shot in order to bury the dead.

The Anzacs held Gallipoli for almost a year before the higher-ups decide to pull out.

While the Gallipoli campaign was mostly a bust, it’s a point of pride for Australians and New Zealanders; it’s the first time both countries truly stepped onto the world stage, and it is sort of the marking point of when they became countries of their own. The Anzacs were unbelievably brave, and this is why the campaign is looked at as a good legacy in both countries’ histories.

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Colonialism (Australia) #2

For a group of colonies with a huge convict population, Australia was really not that rebellious.

It’s sort of like when a kid is punished a lot and therefore never acts out; life as a convict in Australia was hard. In many places, the convicts were worked to death. Living conditions were horrible, though there was hope to be released and assigned to work for wages.

So, you’re probably wondering why convicts were even being sent to Australia. It was on the other side of the world, considered empty space by the colonial powers of the time (despite a number of people already living there). Sounds like a cruel and unusual punishment to be exiled to the other end of the world, with deadly creatures and no hope of ‘civilization’ like back home, doesn’t it?

However, while being cruel was pretty much normal for the British penal system, that wasn’t the main reason that they decided to start shipping people off to Australia.

Zip back to around the end of the 1700s; Britain is in its Industrial Revolution. People have come in from the countryside in hopes of a better life in the city, working in factories. The problem is, there are a lot of them, far more than there are jobs.

This means, since there’s no wage control of any kind, that the wages plummet to whatever the most desperate people are willing to be paid. And the most desperate people tend to be the Irish immigrants, shipped over from poverty in Ireland.

With a huge population and not enough ways for them to support themselves, crime becomes rampant, especially thieving. You might remember Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and the rest of the boys in Oliver Twist? Thieves are everywhere.

Soon enough, Britain’s prisons are overflowing (and btw, they are horrible, horrible places to be). What to do with all these people?

Tons of undesirables, and a vast, empty set of colonies. Britain’s ruler’s had a light bulb moment (or rather, an oil lamp moment).

Just so you understand, the upper class’s attitude towards the poor at this time was outright callous. They thought they were dirty, bad, and just overall to blame for their own problems. They were seen as human, but lesser – far lesser.

So bing bang boom, repeat offenders start getting shipped off to Australia.

Not only that, but the Irish are getting shipped out in large numbers. Why? Because they’re rebellious.

This leads to the first major rebellion in Australia.

1798, there’s a big rebellion in Ireland. It’s squashed, and the rebels are sent to Australia (except the ones who are executed).

Naturally, the Irish are not happy to be there (no one really is). So, about five years later, several of the rebels from Ireland have planned a rebellion.

In New South Wales, near Castle Hill, the Castle Hill Rebellion begins. There are plans for well over a thousand convicts to be involved; about 200-300 end up kicking it off. They escape from the farm they’re stuck on, and get a bunch of arms and supplies for their rebellion. They swell out over the colony, collecting more convicts (whether or not the other convicts want to be part of it) and getting a huge chunk of the weapons in the colony.

The goal? Get ships and get back to Ireland.

It doesn’t go so well. While it causes quite the scare (a lot of hated officials flee the colony on boat), there are several problems: they are short on numbers, less than a third of the planned number, and they lose their element of surprise.

Colonial troops had caught up with them, and the leaders are tricked into parley and then captured. It’s only a short battle between the troops and the convicts, most of whom run for their lives, not exactly trained to deal with professional soldiers. 15 convicts are shot dead.

Most of the convicts involved are given amnesty, but it is the first major hiccup in the colonization of Australia. And another one is on its heels.