The Anzac Spirit – Article by Col Stringer, Col Stringer Ministries, Queensland Australia

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 5:13)
What does the word ‘Anzac’ really mean to this modern generation? I believe we are in danger of losing much of our heritage in this nation. The words of John Williamson’s song ‘True Blue’ seem to be proving chillingly accurate in modern Australia.

Hey True Blue, don’t say you’ve gone

Say you’ve knocked off for a smoko,

And you’ll be back later on

Hey True Blue,
Give it to me straight, face to face

Are you really disappearing, Just another dying race,

Hey True Blue.
True Blue, is it me and you?

Is it Mum and Dad, is it a cockatoo?

Is it standing by your mate when he’s in a fight?

Or will she be right?

True Blue, I’m asking you…


Hey True Blue, ‘Is your heart still there?

If they sell us out like sponge cake, Do you really care?

Hey True Blue. True Blue, I’m asking you…  *


(* True Blue, written by John Willamson. Reproduced by permission of Emusic Pty Ltd)


The New Anzac Generation?

There is a Scripture in Micah 6:8 which I believe adequately sums up the Anzac Spirit. God Himself gives us the answer to the question asked, ‘what is a man’. It says: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

1. ‘To do justly’

Or as we would say in Aussie, ‘fair go mate’. If anything sums up the spirit of the Aussie Digger it was to give everyone a fair go. This feature can be observed among the young Light Horsemen in their liberation of Jerusalem from hundreds of years of Muslim rule. I have spoken to Jews who were there at the time – or whose fathers were – and I’ve read countless books and articles on the subject. They all say the same thing. “No one treated us better than the Aussies!” 

            There was very little anti-Semitic spirit among our Anzac forefathers. Most of the European troops still suffered from strong anti-Jewish sentiments, but not the young Aussie Light Horsemen! “The Aussies ate with us, drank with us, shared with us, and lived with us. They treated us like equals!” Wrote one Jewish soldier who served with the Anzacs. Even captured enemy spoke favourably of their treatment at the hands of these young Diggers. To this day a bond still exists between the Aussies and their former Turkish enemies from WW1. The same thing is apparent in modern conflicts, Vietnam, Iraq, Timor etc. Former SAS commander Duncan Lewis summed up the compassion of the Anzacs this way;

“I think the thing that sets the Australian soldier apart is humanity. That’s the most important thing. They’re human beings and they treat other people that they come across, whether they be friend, or foe or neutral, as human beings. They’ve shown amazing degrees of compassion to those in need.” (The Spirit of the Digger).

2. “To love mercy’

As our Anzac Light Horsemen forefathers advanced deeper into the Holy Land, liberating the Jewish people from hundreds of years of Muslim control, a deep affection began to develop between them and the local Jewish population. These Aussies did not suffer from the same “class distinction” that dogged the British. Australians have always championed and firmly believed in looking out for the ‘underdog’. H. S. Gullett writes in “The A.I.F. In Sinai and Palestine”

        “The unwarlike natives, and especially the Christian Copts, looked upon them (the Australian Light Horsemen) as defenders against the fierce raiders of the desert, and treated them with kindness and hospitality. When the time came for their withdrawal the villagers expressed sharp regret. ‘Our children will remember the Australians in their prayers….’

       Despite the barriers of blood and speech and faith, the Jews grew fond of these big Australians on their big horses, discovering that beneath their terrible aspect they were gentle and chivalrous young men with a clean, brave outlook and an unfailing respect for all that was good and just in life…. when the three regiments saddled up in the dawn, their lines were thronged with Jewish families, who were aware that fighting was ahead, and exaggerating in their timid minds the horrors of war, shed tears as they bade farewell to their favourite troopers, pressed upon them little parting gifts, and wished them God speed. Deeply and severely religious as many of these people were, there was something very moving in the blessings they invoked.”  A special bond had developed between the Jewish soldiers and the Anzacs.

          Again let’s go back to the story of the Light Horsemen. The young Anzac troopers were often touched and moved by compassion as to take some action. One particular event that stands out in my mind was when the Anzac forces were being pushed back from Amman by the Turks. As the Australians entered the city the local Christian and Jewish population went wild with excitement, much to the disapproval of the local Arabs who watched the celebrations with sullen disdain.

            When the Turks prevailed in a counter-attack and the Anzacs were being forced to withdraw, the Christians and Jews feared for their very lives and so began to pack what belongings they could carry and fled with the retreating Light Horsemen. The night was bitterly cold and wet; the road they followed was steep and narrow as well as being rough and flooded. The refugees, burdened down with their children and belongings, gradually began to drop behind the young Anzacs as regiment after regiment passed them by. Gradually their anxiety and terror began to show as they contemplated being left behind to face the fury of their fanatical enemies.

            Many of these Light Horsemen were so visibly moved by their pitiful plight that they dismounted from their ‘walers’ and hoisted the Jewish women and children up into their saddles. These gallant young troopers, despite many being wounded and exhausted from battle and no sleep, allowed these refugees to ride their horses while they walked alongside. That my friend is called ‘mercy’!

 3. “To walk humbly’

Another aspect that sums up the Anzac Spirit and the Aussie Digger is his humility. Australian uniforms are rarely gaudy, or given to the flashy types that some armies sport. Some nation’s uniforms are smothered in brass and insignias with more ribbons and colours than a fruit salad. Even when it comes to acts of bravery Aussies are usually reluctant to take the credit, often insisting that they were just a part of a team, or it was “really my mates that should get the credit, not me.”                                                                      

It’s a part of the Aussie bloke’s ‘psyche’ not to big note oneself. It’s OK to big note someone else – just don’t ‘blow your own trumpet’.

 Courage Is Part Of The Anzac Spirit

It’s sad to say but most Australians are completely unaware of how courageous and effective our soldiers were. It was our Light Horsemen who were largely responsible for the liberation of Jerusalem from centuries of Muslim rule.But one of the most heroic achievements of our young Aussie Diggers was their magnificent efforts on the Kokoda Track in WW11. Japan had destroyed the powerful American fleet at Pearl Harbour – and conquered much of Asia – now suddenly the undefeated Japanese Army was right on our very doorstep. With most of our soldiers fighting in the Middle East the nation was vulnerable. All that stood between us and the horrors of invasion by the hitherto invincible Japanese were a few hundred young Aussie diggers. This story means a lot to me, my Uncle Alf Atkinson – my mother’s brother was one of these young men – he won the Military Medal for bravery at the battle of Gona.

Despite what some would have us believe, the first defeat inflicted upon the Japanese land forces – who had swept down through Manchuria, Malaysia and Singapore – was not by Uncle Sam at all, but by Aussie ‘Diggers’ many of them militia. These were 17-18 year old young men who had never been trained in warfare or who had ever fired a shot in anger. Nicknamed ‘chocos’ – short for ‘chocolate soldiers’ as they thought that they would melt in the sun. Patrick Lindsay wrote in ‘The Spirit of Kokoda’:

     “The battle for the Kokoda Track is Australia’s Alamo. If Gallipoli symbolizes the Anzac Spirit in WW1, then Kokoda is its WW11 equivalent…..They died so young. They missed so much. They gave up so much: their hopes, their dreams, and their loved ones. They laid down their lives that their friends might live. Greater love hath no man than this.”

     “These were not the tough campaigners of the AIF (regular army). In fact they were little more than kids. The average age was eighteen…Few had ever fired a shot; …They were a rag-tag lot the 39th, the rejects from many companies. There was a chap named Matt Binns – he only had one arm. The bugler had one arm too – he played a marvellous reveille. There was a chap with one eye and another one who was knock-kneed – he’d had polio when he was young. Our platoon leader was night-blind…They had joined up to defend their country….These young men were treated poorly (who had not slept in 3 days) withstood an onslaught of 1500 crack Japanese troops. In fact at one stage of the campaign only 110 young Aussies were all that stood between their loved ones in Australia and 6,000 merciless troops from the land of the Rising Sun.

 One young Aussie Digger wrote: “I prayed a lot. I believe in prayer. I knew my parents and grandparents were praying for me so that helped a lot. And, of course, I had my mates. When you have good friends, good mates you don’t leave them. It was a brotherhood.”

     “We got a message from Port Moresby that …..we had to stay there and fight to the death. That was horrifying. I thought, ‘Well, I won’t see my family again, I won’t see Australia again.’ But I was prepared, like the rest of us, to stay there and fight to the finish.”

        “The mateship that bound these young Diggers together can be gauged by the actions of the walking wounded. After one ferocious battle, they heard their mates were still trapped at Isurava and in dire straits, everyone who physically could, turned around and struggled back up the track to the hell-hole from which they had just been delivered. Of the 30 wounded, only three couldn’t make it back – one had lost his foot, one had a bullet in the throat and one had lost his forearm.” (‘The Spirit of Kokoda)

The Japanese Were Impressed With The Young Aussies Bravery

Japanese soldier Shigenori Doi wrote:  “During  the  battle we advanced about 200 metres and I remember an Australian soldier, wearing just a pair of shorts, came running towards us throwing hand grenades. I remember thinking at the time this was something that would be very hard for a Japanese soldier to do. Even now, when I think about it, I’m affected by the memory of this warrior. I suppose the Australians had a different motivation for fighting, but this soldier, this warrior, was far braver than any in Japan. When I think about it now, it still affects me.” (The Spirit of the Digger) 

 What was the motivation, what turned these young ‘teenagers’ into courageous fighting men? Men who inflicted the first defeat on the hitherto invincible Japanese Army? To answer that question let me quote the young men’s officer Phil Roden, from the book ‘The Spirit of Kokoda’,

            “I’d like them to be remembered as a group of men who stood up to be counted when the chips were down, and who fought to save their country from what was deemed then to be a threat. And they didn’t think twice about doing it. Some gave their lives doing it. I’d like them to be thought of as good parents, good fathers, good husbands and as good Australians who were there for the welfare of all people in Australia.”

 Two things stood the young Anzacs in good stead, their great sense of humour under almost any circumstances and their great sense of “mateship”. Let me quote Ion Idriess again as he relates about those magnificent Light Horsemen in “The Desert Column’:

    “No doubt we are a queer lot, a scatter-brained, laughing lot.  Last night, the whole crowd were trying to sing comic songs. They made the oasis hideous with choruses of the most idiotic songs I’ve ever heard …But the dearest memory, the one that will linger until I die, is the comradeship of my mates, these men who laugh so harshly at their own hardships and sufferings, but whose smile is so tenderly sympathetic to other’s pain.”

 Many of the men formed bonds that lasted a lifetime. It was this mateship that resulted in a survival rate of almost twice that of other Allies. This quote from ‘The Spirit of Kokoda’ sums up mateship:

        “I emphatically believe in looking after number one. But number one is not yourself – it’s your best mate …..The feeling mateship gives you – when you are at the bottom of the barrel and along comes those mates of yours. Often they don’t say anything, they just sit with you. It’s like a husband and wife holding hands on one another’s death beds – in time of crisis words aren’t necessary.”

 The Anzac spirit of mateship is something that has been part of the Australian male psyche since we became a nation. It shows the degree of respect for mateship that the Australian male still holds! Indeed Jesus Himself speaks of the spirit of mateship in this passage from the Gospel of John: “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend.”

 This Anzac Day gives all Australians a chance to honour and acknowledge the debt we owe to our Anzac forefathers!

5 Responses to “The Anzac Spirit”

  1. 1 Patricia

    I went to the dawn memorial service and it was such a wonderful morning! By 5.15 am all the families, including children, little children were walking on the pavement in St Kilda Road towards the Shrine of Remembrance. What a demonstration of solidarity and appreciation of the warriors of the country of Australia! Respectful silence and order characterized the whole morning. Such honour by the families of Australia. Bus loads and pedestrians from everywhere walking towards the Shrine. The trams were full of veterans.

    We cannot see the grass on the walk up the Shrine but the presence of God was there. There was a morning star over the top of the Shrine and I have never seen a star of that size! It was like a big bauble in the dark dawn sky and I keep looking at it to make sure it was a star, it was! And then 2 other stars shone making a triangle in the sky. Only the big star shone through the most part of the morning. The Shrine as you know is on a gentle slopping mount, well, it was packed shoulder to shoulder all round the Shrine, thousands turned up at 5.30 am!

    The people were ready at about 5.40 am. The narration of various wars were read out, the sounding of trumpets, the songs of war (beautiful songs, the speakers were very clear). Gunfire – 3 shots. Scottish bagpipes. NZ ANZACS remembered etc. Laying of the wreath over the plaque in the centre of the Shrine “Greater love hath no man….”.

    All of us were standing round the Shrine and it was awesome. I went to honour the Lighthorsemen and the people who fought for Australia, including Malaya (now Malaysia) and their families. To pray a blessing over the war widows and children and the present generation. What a day!

    I thought that it was going to be a quiet morning with a FEW gathered. It was jam packed! The Lord said to me that these families who brought their children are raising up the future leaders soldiers and warriors for the country. A patriotic spirit. A vision for the defence of Australia. And the Lord said, “Look at Israel the soldiers fight for their country and all of them are trained for war”.

    The service started at 6pm and ended at about 6.30 am. I think by 5.40am no entry is allowed into the compound around the Shrine. After that the crowd lined up in front of the Shrine and walk up the steps into the inner building, each were given poppy (ies) to put into the big basin as they walk pass the plaque.

    Following that a hearty breakfast is served for $1! It was beautiful! Giving honour to whom honour is due. It would be such a wonderful occasion for the CTFM team to go there one year as a team and stand around the Shrine to pray for Australia and the future generation of warriors, soldiers.

    A few politician’s names were mentioned. Ted Ballieu’s name was mentioned as he had 2 grandfathers who were in the war. Australia was there. I saw some Navy personnel, Victorian police, RSL. The whole city of Melbourne was awake on this side of town!

    God bless


  2. 2 Jillian


    It is amazing to see that even though Australia has been spared wars on our shores and most of our war veterans from the two world wars have passed on, ANZAC day continues to grow in popularity, not shrink as time marches on.

    There was a yearning in the hearts of the young ANZACs for adventure and the games and stories of combat still intrigue our children today. Unfortunately, schools generally only teach our children about Gallipoli, with the message that war is horrible and should be avoided at all costs. Yes, war is horrible but to abstain from any form of battle is to allow the enemy to wreak havoc and plunder our camp. God’s values and purposes are worth fighting for.

    In Dec 2005-Jan 2006, and October 2007, I led two tours that retraced the steps of the ANZACs from the beginning of their WW1 duties in Turkey, through Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria. Unbeknown to the ANZACs, they were effectively opening up an ancient highway, mentioned in Isaiah, and walking into the fulfilment of biblical prophecy.

    “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria…and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians…Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of Hosts has blessed, saying ‘Blessed is Egpyt, My people, and Assyria, the work of My hands, and Israel, My inheritance’(Is 19:23-25)”. The ANZACs went along this prophetic route physically but spiritually it is still awaiting its fulfilment.

    As we drove from Istanbul (formerly Constantinople – an early capital of Christianity), along the Dardanelles towards the Gallipoli peninsula, we were reading a first-hand account from the diary of a soldier and noted that we were at Gallipoli EXACTLY 90 years after the troops were evacuated (17th Dec 1915)! We spent time at the cemeteries, where so many young lives were cut short in their prime, mourning and remembering, and wondering why this had to happen. The aim of the British assault on Gallipoli and the Dardenelles was an attempt to capture Istanbul, which straddles the narrow isthmus controlling passage from Europe to Asia, and commanding the entrance to the Bosphorus. It suddenly dawned on me for the first time that if they had succeeded, the British would have spent the rest of the war fighting Russia, which would leave no stone unturned to defend its only sea route in this area, through which all its sea trade passes. God however had another plan, which was to be revealed to us as we continued on our journey.

    Retreating from Gallipoli back to Cairo, the soldiers were sent to defend another major sea passage – the Suez Canal. The Australian soldiers and their horses (called Walers) proved to be better in the hot dry desert conditions than their British counterparts, who were more accustomed to rain! They were therefore often placed at the forefront of the battle. They pushed forward to capture the last oasis in the Sinai to the north of the Suez called Romani. This was effectively achieved and so they kept moving along the ancient Via Maris route taking the water sources as they progressed. Confidence grew as they succeeded and made it through most of the Sinai desert to a Mediterranean paradise called El Arish. A new thought began to cross the minds of the British hierarchy, which by this time was suffering huge losses on the western front in France. If the soldiers could liberate Jerusalem, it would be a tremendous boost to flailing morale in Britain. However, there was one major obstacle to overcome before then.

    The next city along the ancient ‘Way of the Sea’ was Gaza. The first attack on Gaza proved to be a disaster, as did the second. Thousands of lives were lost and the British commander was replaced. This ancient fortress city, which had stood at the border between Israel and Egypt throughout history, and changed hands so many times, was once again proving to be a battleground. Meanwhile, on the political scene, some Jews and Christians who knew the Scriptures and were alert to God’s opportunities, were lobbying members of the British parliament and pushing for a homeland for the Jewish people to be established. If Britain succeeded in driving the Ottoman Turks out of the Middle East, the plan was for the Jews to be once more allowed to be return to their ancient homeland as custodians of God’s land once more.

    On the ground, the new army chief was concocting a plan to try to enter the Holy Land via the desert, as the Turks thought this was impenetrable. After trekking three days and nights in the desert, just before sunset on October 31st, 1917 a courageous charge of 800 Australian Lighthorsemen dramatically took the desert city of Beersheva from the entrenched Turkish troops, after the British and NZ soldiers had battled all day to clear the way. This crazy unexpected ‘do or die’ charge went down in military history as “the last great cavalry charge in history”. There was little loss of life on either side, and most of the Turks were taken as prisoners of war. Also on October 31st in the British parliament, the war cabinet agreed to give the Jews a homeland. Had the attack in Gallipoli succeeded, or the first or second attacks on Gaza, the political scene was not ready for the prophecies of the Bible to be fulfilled. Now, after 400 years of Turkish rule, the ancient biblical southern gateway to the Holy Land was open.

    Gaza fell shortly after and the troops marched on to Jerusalem, entering the city without a fight, 40 days after Beersheva and during the festival of Hannukka. Hannukka remembers the defeat of the Greeks by a small Jewish army in the second century BC. For this reason, the British were welcomed as saviours. As the troops continued north in the months ahead to push the Turks back to into Turkey, God was opening up a place of refuge for the Jewish people from the horrors of the gas chambers of Hitler that were to come a few short years later. Unfortunately, very few Jews saw this coming and later, British policy made their return to Palestine difficult, if not impossible. In WWI and in WWII, the ANZACS played a key role in the forefront of the liberation and defence of the Holy Land, so that God’s people could return to the land of their forefathers as prophesied in numerous Scriptures. This must happen before the second coming of the Messiah as a witness that He is faithful to His covenants.

    “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather them from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth”. (Is 43:6,7)

    In the tapestry of history, we see the fingers of God weaving His eternal plans and fulfilling His Word spoken through the prophets and coming to pass in our day. He is the Lord of the nations and His plans will not be thwarted. As the ANZACs of our grandparents’ era physically played their role at the forefront of God’s plans, will the younger generation rise up to play their part in the spiritual fulfilment of Biblical prophecy? The battles in the Middle East are not over land, but rather who will rule the world from Mt Zion – the AntiChrist or Jesus? Many ANZACs lost their lives in the physical battle, and many may lose their lives in the spiritual one, but their sacrifice will not be in vain. As we see, God will have His way with Israel, His church and the nations. The only question is whether we will be the Esthers who will heed the call or will God have to find another?

    ANZAC day 25/4/2009.

  3. 3 Patty

    This message is just what I am looking for to tell my Sunday school class tomorrow for ANZAC day.
    I Pray that this message will sink into their hearts and help grow their character.
    Thank you

  4. 4 Gary Palmer

    i came across this website and i am in the process of displaying ANZAC Spirit to a Aussie Bloke who graded a council road
    up in Stanage Bay North of Rockhampton,He told the Rockhampton Regional Council and then went ahead and graded the road
    at his own expense $8,000 ,using His own Grader,and instead of getting a thank you card, He Mr Rea recieved a summons
    to appear in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 24th MAY 2011. I AM GOING TO SUPPORT HIM IN HIS JUST CAUSE.
    You material is awesome and backed up with GODS WORDS BRO!


  5. 5 Richard Lloyd

    What a wonderful tribute to our ANZAC spirit and our ANZACs. What an honour to be counted as an Australian and what a tradition to uphold. Thanks mate.

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