John Atkins

AUSTRALIANS AT WAR

Many brave Australians have fought in overseas wars
It started in South Africa with Britain against the Boers
When our colonial master beckoned we responded to the call
And earned a reputation that is recognised by all

This was the first encounter fought in a foreign land
By our young men who joined the ranks and formed a courageous band
Of soldiers who were fearless and had a ton of pride
Many of them bushman who could really shoot and ride

The battle raged for two long years and many lives were lost
The conditions were horrendous and there was an almighty cost
But Australian troops had played their part and won great acclamation
It was not the last the world would hear of this great fighting nation

Things were heating up in Europe, there was a sharp rebuke
When a Serbian secret society member shot the old archduke
The lines were drawn, the stage was set, the sabres they would rattle
As Germany and its allies set forth to engage in battle.

The Germans had befriended the Turkish and the Prussians
The French had signed another pact with Britain and the Russians
As part of the British Empire, New Zealand and Australia
Quickly volunteered support. They did not want a failure.

Recruiting drives were organised and young men volunteered
To go to war against a foe for whom they held no fear
The Turkish Ottoman Empire was giving Britain trouble
And so Australian troops were sent to Cairo on the double

There they trained for several months and then they got the chance
To sail up to Gallipoli with the Kiwis England and France
They landed at dawn that April morn at a place called Anzac Cove
The Turks were waiting in ambush but on these brave men drove

Some didn’t even make the beach the fighting was so fierce
The Turkish soldiers held the cliffs; the Aussie’s could not pierce
The battle raged for eight long months and many lives were shattered
The British wanted glory. To them that’s all that mattered

The Aussies tried to scale the cliffs but they were beaten back
By Turkish soldiers well trained and armed to stave off an attack
They held their ground, this rugged coast from April to December
Battles and hero’s names Australians still remember.

There was Simpson and his donkey; a legendary pair
Who ferried out the wounded and went where none would dare
The battle of the lone pine ridge was another tactical error
A seedling from that very pine now grows in our Canberra.

The landing was a disaster and nothing really gained
The sun was hot, the land was harsh and then of course it rained
The most successful operation of this unfortunate campaign
Was the deceptive evacuation. Aussie ingenuity was to the fore again

Those who survived Gallipoli were then sent off to France
Where they fought against the Germans to give the French a chance
To get their country back again from this marauding foe
And once again the diggers put up a mighty show.

They fought in trenches full of mud and many soldiers perished
The memories of those brave young men always will be cherished
When finally the war was won and Germany retreated
The Aussie boys could now come home, the enemy defeated.

That fateful day in April was the birth date of this nation
The 25th will always be a day of celebration
When Aussies all remember those who gave without regret
And we all pray that on that day “lest we forget”

A man named Adolph Hitler had been stirring for a while
To show the world he was a man of charisma and style
He formed a group of soldiers who would carry out his chores
And once again the stage was set for another mighty war.

The Germans did their usual trick of invading smaller nations
They hated Jews and sent millions to camps of concentration
Where they were subjected to torture and death by gassing
And all across Europe, German forces were amassing

London was the target of raiders from the air
and life became unbearable for people living there
But the British held their heads up high and weathered out the storm
It would be a while before their life would return back to the norm

The war was fought in Africa and many people died
Australian troops were called upon to try and turn the tide
They fought ever so gallantly and in the history books
They tell of how an Aussie force beat Rommel at Tobruk

Meanwhile closer to our shores the Japs were showing their might
The Brits surrendered Singapore without much of a fight
Many Aussie soldiers were captured, prisoners of the Japanese
And put to work in death camps full of hardship and disease

While the war raged on in Europe, Australia was under threat
The Japanese were advancing south but they hadn’t got there yet
Soldiers serving in the Middle East were hurriedly called back
To fight the wily Japanese along the Kokoda track.

The Japanese bombed Darwin on more than one occasion
And we were close to being part of a Japanese invasion
Port Moresby was a stepping stone and that would be their aim
But the yank and Aussie soldiers were equal to their game

The Japs were stopped just 48 k’s short of their objective
They were repelled and chased back north, the defence was effective
They had been soundly beaten by a foe who was prepared
To sacrifice their lives for those for whom they really cared

The dropping of the atom bomb brought this war to an end
The peace process would sort things out and relationships would mend
And Anzac Day would continue to be a day of celebration
When once again we thank those men on behalf of this great nation.

Communism became a threat to stability in South East Asia
Insurgent groups were causing strife in Korea and Malaysia
The Chinese under Chiang Ki Chek had backed up North Korea
To invade the south and the U.N. said we need Australians here.

So once again Australian troops were sent to foreign shores
As part of a multi-national force we had to do our chores
To enable other countries to try to live in peace
To achieve that goal, this nation’s endeavours will not cease.

The Chinese and North Koreans crossed over the southern border
But were repelled by U.N. troops to restore law and order
Reinforcements from the north then turned the battles tide
The U.N. troops conceded ground but never lost their pride

The battles raged for three long years and both sides took a beating
One minute there would be a win, the next they were retreating
Eventually they saw the light and both sides called a truce
Neither side was going to win and so what was the use

Australian troops had once again maintained their reputation
When 3rd Battalion RAR received a Presidential Citation
For holding off a Chinese force that attacked in Kapyong valley
This helped to slow the southern push and was right up their alley.

With peace declared most of the troops returned home to Australia
Some stayed behind to just make sure the truce was not a failure
Eventually the last troops left in 1957
To most of them the return trip was like a trip to heaven

But still the threat of communism remained in South East Asia
And soon there was more fighting, this time in Malaysia.
Australian Air Force planes were used to ferry in supplies
Of men and ammunition to help the fighting guys.

The emergency lasted 13 years but not declared a war
Australia and its allies were once more to the fore
To fight for peace and freedom in a country racked with strife
To enable every citizen to live a peaceful life.

Then in 1965 we followed “Uncle Sam”
Went “all the way with LBJ” and sent troops to Vietnam
To fight a war that was seen by some as one we should not fight
But once again our pollies thought to participate was right.

To increase numbers of our troops they introduced conscription
Australia’s reaction to this act really defied description
With protest marches through the streets the likes not seen before
To try and stop our brave young men from being sent to war.

But go they did and once again they proved they were the best
When in the jungles and paddy fields their spirit stood the test
As they fought against the Viet Cong a cunning dangerous foe
Who blended in with locals so soldiers did not know.

They bravely fought to stem the tide of soldiers from the north
And soon found out what comradeship and mates were really worth
To stand and fight with mates around is something to be treasured
The satisfaction and relief can really not be measured.

The famous battle at long tan in that steamy rubber plantation
Will be permanently etched in history of the battles of this nation
Here 6th Battalion RAR fought off the Viet Cong
For hours on end till finally they routed the murderous throng.

On 11th day of January 1973,
The last Australian combat troops were putting out to sea
They were leaving for Australia their duties were complete
Many of them would now return to jobs on Civvy Street

The nation was divided and when the troops returned
A lot of them were welcomed home but many more were spurned
By those who felt we had no place in fighting in this war
But once again we did our bit – our patriotic chore.

While controversy rages about our participation
In battles fought throughout the world by troops from this proud nation
We think of where our troops are now and just how things may pan
For those who serve in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And once again this time of year we watch the veterans march
Some they shuffle wearily whilst others backs are arched
It is a time of solitude and many of us will say
“Lest we forget” and thank those men for this our Anzac Day