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AIF Sails for Egypt

1 NOV 1914: World War I and the First AIF sails. The first Australian and New Zealand contingent sails from Albany, Western Australia, bound for Egypt. Only one in three of those who sailed in the first convoy would return physically unscathed at the end of the First World War.

“The arrival of the Australian Warships at Albany signalises the veritable gathering of an Australian Armada. Never in the history of the Southern Seas has such a fleet mobilised together in one Harbour under the Flag. It is a proud day for Australia – a prouder day for little Albany that she should be chosen as the meeting ground of such a memorable gathering. On every hand, as our troopship, the Afriac rides at anchor, with the Union Jack and the Southern Cross floating bravely in the breeze, we look around and see a circle of Sister –ships — all flying the same flags and all equipped for the same resolute, Imperial purpose.We feel, then, we are fortunate, indeed to be born under Our Flag, and to have the length and breadth of the Empire as our heritage. When, in the grey dawn, we drew up at the anchorage, our propellers had thrashed out safely the two thousand miles of sea wall in our eighteen thousand mile ocean journey. One by one, hour after hour our Sister ships steamed in with perfect order and settled down at their allotted positions. Safety and precision so far and may it be safety and precision all the way through all the campaign. It is a mighty task to properly transport nearly forty ships, thirty thousand men, horses and munitions of war eighteen thousand miles across the seas. May the smoothness of the first part be continued to the end, and if we do encounter the enemy on the way, we have battleships by our side that fight for victory or death. Australia’s lesson to the world is a lesson never to be forgotten, for it shows that Britain is not England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but a real, vast, world-extending Empire—powerful for Peace, restless for War. Albany’s Bay will hold before we sail thirty-thousand souls afloat, all intent, soldiers and sailors, with the one aim—to serve the Motherland and to defeat her foes. Little did our old-time mariner, Captain James Cook, the fearless navigator of these then unknown seas, foresee that in later days an Australian troop-laden Armada, consorted by her own and Allied battleships, would sail in majestic array, to stand, sword to sword, bayonet to bayonet, rifle to rifle, shoulder to shoulder with the dear old land that Cook birth. Well may the Empire be proud of the sentiment that sets the steam that sails Australian Armada across the sounding sea.” From the Albany edition of “The Kangaroo” the on-board newspaper of the diggers.

Australian and New Zealand troops departed in convoy from King George Sound, Albany, initially bound for Europe. Germany’s invasion of Belgium precipitated decisive action from Britain with war being declared on 4th August, 1914.

The conflict would become known as the Great War. Unreserved support from British colonies was offered with commitments of available men.

After several months training in Egypt and the Middle East, Australian and New Zealand troops landed at dawn on the beaches of Gallipoli, Turkey on 25th April 1915. Although troops from many different countries landed on the Peninsula, this was the site of the first major battles undertaken by Australia and New Zealand troops, those who would become known as our iconic ANZAC troops.

It was the courage, bravery and tenacity of our ANZAC troops at the landing that links Gallipoli with the birth of a national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand. The Gallipoli campaign continued for another eight months until evacuation in December, 1915.

The Great War continued until the armistice was signed in 1918. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November 1918, peace was declared, a day we now commemorate as Remembrance or Armistice Day.

The Anzac Centenary 2014-2018 is a milestone of special significance to Australians.

The First World War left an enduring legacy, helping to define us as a people and a nation. The Federation of Australia was only seventeen years old when the war ended in 1918 and a national identity began to emerge which reflected upon the sacrifice and service of Australian and New Zealand armed service men and women.

During the Anzac Centenary, Australia and New Zealand will remember not only the original Anzacs who served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, but commemorate more than a century of service by Australian service men and women. Photo: Queensland troops return to their ship after shore leave in Albany (many wearing wildflowers in their hats, KFF). More; Search for diggers who embarked on the first and second convoys;

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