Published 25 April 2015

Great valour was a common virtue.

The Duke of Sussex

In this quiet place, it is difficult to imagine the carnage, the desperation of the fighting that took place here. But it was in this spot that many acts of valour were witnessed, and despite the number of Victoria Crosses awarded for the fighting here, most of these acts went unrecognised. Great valour was a common virtue.

The most sacred bond between soldiers is the unspoken pact that if the situation demands, they will lay down their lives for each other.

Sergeant Archie Barwick of the First Battalion wrote:

I saw several men sacrifice themselves here, they went to certain death, one chap in particular I remember...

we were chasing some Turks round a little sap and they reached the bend first, everyone knew the first man round the corner was a dead one, but this chap never hesitated, he threw himself fair at them, and the six fired together and fairly riddled him with bullets,

that was our chance and we charged into them and it was all over in a few minutes.

This great bond, these self-sacrificing actions, display the extremes to which soldiers will go to for their duty and for each other. While we honour their bravery, we must also remember the emotional cost, the guilt, sorrow and mental anguish of those who survived. In early 1916 George Lewis wrote to the mother of Private Frederick Muir.

Dear Madam,

Being a dear friend of your son Fred and probably the last of his Illawarra mates who saw him alive I feel I must write of the esteem and love we all had for him...

After the evacuation his battalion came and camped beside us again...and when I sought for him I received the sad tidings of his death. The war has taken as victims most of my dearest friends of the 1st Division but none was more dear to me than your son.

I feel consoled by the thought that he died a hero’s death fighting for freedom and justice against tyranny and military oppression.

You have my heartfelt sympathy and I can realise how terrible your grief must be for I loved him too.

Fred’s friend,

G.Lewis

It is this love, the memory of these lives lost, that draws us back here now, a century later, to stand again amongst their graves and to remember their loss and all they gave for us and for each other.