Truth, Understanding, Insight

ANZAC Day: The sacrifice at Gallipoli

17th April 2011, hej


1) A Sacrifice

Why do people call the loss of life at Gallipoli a sacrifice?

What did their sacrifice achieve? Something of benefit to Australia or to the Commonwealth? Certainly not either, as the Dardanells campaign was acknowledged by all as, at best, a fiasco, which led to the resignation of Churchill who planned it, and, at worst, a defeat. Even today the ANZACs are seen as having been defeated at Gallipoli.

“The landing at Gallipoli was a major event in the war. Even though the Gallipoli campaign was a military defeat, it helped to provide Australians with a new sense of their identity and place in the world... People in Australia knew their boys were training for their ‘baptism of fire’ ...” (
The eventual failure of the Gallipoli operation enhanced its sanctity in the public mind; the courage and sacrifice of the New Zealand soldiers in adversity was highlighted. (

Is not this odd? That failure and defeat should “enhance sanctity” and inform identity is not the normal outworking of human nature. What other nations celebrate nationally a military defeat as a marker of their identity? For many years Japan, for example, did not remember Hiroshima.

Of even more interest is that persistently the loss of life at the Gallipoli campaign is called a 'sacrifice'.

Australia and New Zealand commemorate the ANZAC Day on the 25th of April every year to honour the bravery and sacrifice of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) (
The day Australians remember is the original landing on Gallipoli in 1915. The spirit of ANZAC, with its human qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. (
All in all, in the Gallipoli Campaign which ultimately ended in defeat, more than 8700 Australians and between 2400 and 2721 New Zealanders were killed. In relation to the two countries' population at the time, this was a massive loss of lives -- a sacrifice remembered deeply on Anzac Day. (goaustralia)

These are three examples. Google (2011) gives over 780,000 occurrences where the word 'ANZACs' and 'sacrifice' occur in the same article. To people from other cultures, the use of the word sacrifice may seem very odd.

Why do Australians persist in calling the Gallipoli campaign a sacrifice?

It was the first campaign where Australians fought as a recognisable unit and there was intense interest in the landing and its outcome. It was thought these men fought for the honour of their country. So those who died became heroes. So much so that:

Death notices on the first anniversary were sent not only by parents, husbands, sisters and sons and daughters - but also friends, cousins, work mates, fellow church members, and families of soldier mates. (

This text is recent. It casually mentions the importance of “fellow Church members”. It cannot be co-incidence, but it just so happens that in 1916, on the first anniversary of the landing, it was a Tuesday and the very Sunday before was Easter Sunday, which fell that year incredibly late on April 23. Easter Sunday services would always be about the sacrifice of Christ. And in 1916 the majority of Australians attended a church. The idea of sacrifice was on their mind that anniversary day. It would be natural for them to associate the two events and in effect “sanctify” the death of sons and brothers.

Easter Sunday was not to fall as late again until 1943 when it precisely coincided with ANZAC day. ANZAC day has been in the same week as Easter Sunday only 11 times in more than 90 years since 1915. It falls on April 24 in 2011. It fell on April 23 in 2000, on April 22 in 1962, 1973, 1984, on April 21 in 1935, 1946, 1957, April 20 in 1919, 1924, 1930, 2003 ( It was quite a remarkable conjunction in 1916 of Easter and the anniversary of the ANZAC landing. It was the beginning of the religious nature of the remembrance of ANZAC day and the inextricable linkage with concepts of sacrifice.

Image at top is is from Australian War Memorial

2) What was the sacrifice for?

But what was the sacrifice for? Freedom? Did a campaign in the Dardanelles affect Australian's freedom? Not really. Whose freedom did it ensure?

And why is this defeat so important?

The following is not dogmatic, but there seems some evidence that the reason Gallipoli is so significant, notwithstanding defeat, is that it reveals a crucial element in the plan of God (Yahweh) for the earth. And Australia and New Zealand ensure the whole world does not forget it.

The answers as to what the sacrifice achieved and why the defeat is important is very evident in the subsequent history of the world. In Australian Jewish News on April 30, 2004 in an editorial, Dan Goldberg wrote the following:

Yom Hazikaron and the supreme sacrifice
ON Sunday, ANZAC Day — Australia’s memorial day for its fallen soldiers — coincided with Yom Hazikaron — Israel’s memorial day for its fallen. Not since 1993 have these two days — both of which are seared into the national consciousness of both peoples — coincided. ...
Although the original ANZACs predated any of Israel’s 20,196 fallen soldiers since November 29, 1947, those legendary Australian soldiers played a crucial role in helping to topple the Ottoman Empire, which paved the way for the establishment of the British Mandate and, subsequently, the modern State of Israel.
It was of course the ANZACs who, having retreated from their fateful landing at Gallipoli in 1915, returned to base in Egypt before heading north through the Sinai Desert to Be’er Sheva, where they led the charge of the Light Horse Brigade — believed to be the last great cavalry charge in history.
Those same brave ANZACs who freed Be’er Sheva from the Turks in November 1917 went on to liberate Jerusalem in December. Their legend — and their connection to the Middle East — lives on, manifested most recently by the SAS’ neutralising of Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in western Iraq following the US-led invasion of Iraq last year. This important intervention prevented the rogue dictator from repeating his attack on Israel a decade earlier when he fired 39 Scuds in the first Iraq war in 1991. ...
For these men and women, including 200 Jewish Diggers who fell in World War I and 134 in World War II, fought for the principles that both Israel and Australia still hold dear to this day: freedom, liberty, democracy.
It was those soldiers who forged history at Gallipoli that etched into the Australian psyche the true meaning of those liberal democratic values as well as the unshakeable bond of mateship — the very same equaliser that pervades the IDF.
It is therefore poignant that this year these two dates converged, offering Australian Jewry the opportunity to reflect not only on the sacrifices made by so many Jews in the defence of Israel, but on the longstanding role played by Australian troops in the Middle East.

This states that the outcome of the defeat of the ANZACs in 1915 was the subsequent taking of Jerusalem. This will be further explored. The outcome of the sacrifice of ANZAC lives was the establishment of the state of Israel, and this article above acknowledges that without that crucial action there would be no State of Israel.

The sacrifice ANZACs speak of and their initial defeat at Gallipoli ultimately benefited Israel.

3) How Gallipoli Fits God's plan

Australia and New Zealand have made much of Gallipoli, and in doing so, remind the world of plan of God (Yahweh) for the Middle East revealed in prophecy.

The establishment of the State of Israel fits much Bible prophecy. The latest this Bible prophecy could have been written was before the beginning of the common era, yet it speaks of modern events in detail. Moses, the leader of the exodus from Egypt (1490BCE), said plainly, before they were even a nation, that Israel would be scattered and gathered again. Specifically he said that they would be persecuted, in need of compassion, and they would be gathered from many nations, and even from 'heaven' or from 'leadership' positions.

That then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations, where Yahweh your God has scattered you. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there will he fetch you: (Deuteronomy 30:3-4)

Jeremiah said it would become a saying that 'God lives who brought the people of Israel from diaspora'.

"The days come", saith Yahweh, "that they shall no more say, Yahweh lives, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, 'Yahweh lives, which brought up and which led the descendants of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries where I had driven them'; and they shall dwell in their own land". (Jeremiah 23:7-8)

The Jews were offered a place in Africa as a homeland, but this was not pursued instead they began to return to Palestine from many countries. The first settlers came from Russia the "north country" and also it was from Russia that nearly a million Jews fought to leave from the late 1940's until the 1990's. Micah says Israel's 'remnant' would be gathered, indicating a time of great population loss. After WW2 in Europe, of a whole family, sometimes only one was left alive to go to Israel.

I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of you; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together.., as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men. (Micah 2:12)

Amos plainly said that there would be a nation of Israel again, and they would be known for building cities and for wine and fruit.

And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. (Amos 9:14 KJV)

Remarkably Israel, without many natural resources and desert landscape, is famous for three things: building cities (often in controversial places), red wine & oranges exported to the world. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of a time of regathering.

And say unto them, "This says the Lord Yahweh; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all": (Ezekiel 37:21-22 KJV)

Despite having the greatest number of countries of origin, languages and ethnic backgrounds of any nation, Israel is "one nation". Hosea indicates Israel would exist without a king and without a prince. And then they would return and seek their God.

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5)

The prophet Joel said at a specific time there would be a nation called 'Israel' again and other nations would be concerned with its fate and Deity would become openly involved.

For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. (Joel 3:1-2)
(For more see Valley of Jehoshaphat)

There are many more references to this plan. If the failure at Gallipoli was indeed significant in the establishment of the state of Israel, it is significant indeed.

4) Providence in the Middle East Campaigns of WW1

The prophet Daniel said his God, Yahweh, rules in the Kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:17). History reveals a number of providential layers, indicating the whole situation was carefully controlled to lead to Israel's restoration. God did not make people make the decisions, rather He made it hard when the action was not in the direction intended.

The reason why the Ottoman Turks entered the war shows providence. Winston Churchill took back from Turkey two battleships the British had made as they thought they needed them to fight the Germans, and the Germans seized the advantage and gave the Turks two of their battleships. The Turks ended up on the German side. That Britain should fight the Turks to support Russia is really odd, as it was only 50 years before that the British were supporting the Turks as a buffer against Russian expansion.

In a bold move to use their warships Britain decided that it was in their interest to “push at” the Ottoman Turks to take Constantinople (Istanbul) to get through to aid Russia who was fighting Germany. They had no desire at all to go and take Palestine. In fact Palestine and Syria were to be France's. At this time Russia was a very unlikely ally, and in fact was only an ally due to a mutual suspicion of Germany. So naturally the Dardanelles is selected, as the aim was to take Constantinople. However, an unfavourable current takes the British forces to the wrong spot and the Ottoman resistance was remarkable. Ottoman Turkish casualties were much higher than those of Britain and the ANZACs. It must be concluded that they were strengthened, to prevent a breach in defence. Britain was not allowed to advance toward Constantinople.

Then the action at Gallipoli led to a more confident Ottoman Turkey which supported a German led attack against the British in the Suez in Egypt. The British lost ground and had heavy casualties. This forced the British to re-deploy ANZACs to take on a defensive battle for British self interest in the Suez.

And it just so happened that both in Britain and the ANZAC nations leadership there was a strong protestant evangelical influence that supported the push for Jerusalem. This would lead to the Balfour declaration which declared support for a Jewish homeland.

And as the Arabs were hanging back due to the successful Ottoman resistance, it was seen as good policy in 1916 to achieve the support of the Jewish Zionists. Jewish men were volunteering and had fought well at Gallipoli in 1915.

Then the government in Britain changed. It is possible the defeat at Gallipoli was a factor in Asquith's defeat in the election. If so, it was significant, as with Lloyd George as Prime Minister and Balfour in government the defensive war in the Suez became an offensive war in the Sinai directed towards Palestine. Due to France being bogged down on the Western Front, Britain had the opportunity to take the leading role in Palestine.

After the first British victories in this Sinai campaign the Arabs shifted sides and revolted against the Ottomans. But efforts bogged as they failed to take Gaza. Due to this failure on 2 April 1917 the order first went out of the British War Cabinet to attempt Jerusalem. And in one remarkable day, the 31 October 1917, the ANZAC Light Horse brigade, in the last successful cavalry charge, took Beersheva, and, providentially, were in time to prevent the Turks from destroying the water wells. By 11 December of 1917 they had captured Jerusalem.

Nobody at the start of WW1 could have thought it would have ended with the British controlling Jerusalem. It seemed they never had it as an aim initally. They accidentally acquired it. On the the day Britain took control of Jerusalem, a New Zealander wearing an Australian uniform climbed the citadel of David and flew the Zionist flag given to him by the Jews in Cairo (Crombie, 1998). He knew he had not fought for the Commonwealth, but for God and achiving the promises of the Bible. The British command took it down.

Gallipoli and Palestine campaign in Bible Prophecy

The action at Gallipoli may be referred to directly in the scriptures. Bible prophecy uses imagery we use today. A river refers to a nation. Just as we associate the Thames with London and the British, or the Seine with France, the Euphrates refers to that nation controlling it. At the time of Gallipoli this was the Ottoman Empire. When a river 'floods' it is where a nation extends territory beyond its national borders, and when it 'dries up', it loses territory. When nations go to war it is likened to drinking a 'bitter' medicine (vial or phial).

In the Revelation the apostle John sees and angel bringing warfare (the vial) to the nation controlling the Euphrates river, and it is 'great' or flooded, showing the nation is a great empire.

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. (Revelation 16:12)

Since 96AD when the text was written there has only been one great empire controlling the Euphrates area, having a sucession of forms. The Mohametans became the Saracens who inturn became the Turkish based Seljukians, Moguls, Tartars and Ottomans culmulating in the the Ottoman Empire which 'overflowed' for centuries the territory of the Euphrates and is symbolised by the “great river Euphrates”. By the time of the Dardanelles campaign in 1915 it had already “dried” or lost territory significantly, but it still occupied Palestine. The process of the shrinking of the Ottoman Empire was to prepare for the “kings of the East” or the kings from the sun's rising. This image comes from the Old Testament where it refers to the Messiah (Jesus as the son/sun) and the saints who come to Jerusalem from Mt Sinai (the East) to deliver Israel (Deuteronomy 33:2).

For Israel to be delivered, the nation had to exist. The Ottomans would have prevented the establishment of a Jewish nation without British action, “the vial”. They brought the ANZACs to fight, supported the Jews and mobilized Arab nationalism which “dried up” the Ottoman Empire, which become merely the nation of Turkey. By the end of 1917 Palestine was freed from Ottoman control and the way was open for Israel's restoration. None of this would have happened without the British attempt to take the Dardanelles.

The "Push"

Also Gallipoli was a “push”. During the first World War a “push” described a large-scale attack on enemy positions. That precise word is used in the English translation of the prophet Daniel when writing of battles between Northern and Southern Empires over the Middle East. Daniel terms the Middle East nation “him”.

And at the time of the end shall the King of the South push< at him:

and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.

(Daniel 11:40)

In context the “time of the end” relates to the era when non-Jews would lose control of Israel, which was in 1948. Daniel's “him”, was the empire controlling the Middle East, and refers to the Ottomans. The “king of the south” controlled Egypt.

Britain had become the “king of the South”. In 1829 Egypt revolted from Ottoman rule to make a “king of the South”. In 1838 they launched an offensive aimed at control of Constantinople that led to an advance to Smyrna. Russia, Austria, Prussia and England forced Egypt to give back Palestine to the Ottomans. This was the 'Eastern Question'. Due to the revolt of Egypt in 1829 the British had the opportunity to achieve a strong presence in Egypt when debts forced Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to sell his country's share in the Suez canal to Britain in 1875. After Britain settled a civil war in Egypt in 1882, at the Convention of Constantinople in 1888 the canal became a neutral zone under the protection of the British. (

Certainly in 1915 Churchill had decided on a “push”, an offensive campaign against the Ottomans with the objective of aid to the Russians by the control of Constantinople (Istanbul). In 1915 Britain was the “king of the South” as they had a huge and historic military presence in Egypt and in fact launched their attack on the Ottomans from Egypt. This “push” led to the final act in the “drying up” of the Ottoman empire. Since the Gulf war, there have been offensive campaigns by the British led coalitions from the South in the Middle East which “push” with ground based warfare at the Moslem powers in the Middle East. However we would not call the offensives now a “push”. That word belongs to an era that has passed. Will there be another push? Or was the offensive begun in 1915 the crucial “push” that changed the situation to prepare for the King of the North coming like a whirlwind to invade Israel? If this was the “push” spoken of by the prophet Daniel, then the day ANZACs attacked at Gallipoli was significant indeed.>

5) The providence in “lest we forget” Gallipoli

There was a working of providence also to ensure the events marking the fulfilment of prophecy were not forgotten by the world. Of all the battles ANZACs could have been deployed to fight, they were given this one as their first. It was well published at home as the first ANZAC battle and for some unfathomable reason ANZAC's saw their performance there as a matter of national pride. For obscure reasons the British persisted despite consistent failure to advance, entrenching the sense of hardship and valour against odds for the ANZACs.

The subsequent fortuitous conjunction of the first anniversary with Easter saw the association with sacrifice and gave this hardship and endurance sanctity. In 1916 on 23 April fighting was begun by a German-lead force in Egypt. In response, ANZACs were formed into new units to fight in the Suez in Egypt. Also in March 1916 the British Foreign minister floated an idea publicly that Jewish support for the war could be gained by offering Jews a role in Palestine. So on the first anniversary of Anzac day in 1916 not only were people remembering the sacrifice of Christ they were thinking that their Anzac troops were once again fighting in lands spoken of in the Bible. By April 1917 Anzacs were fighting in Palestine.

There had been a great loss of Australian and New Zealand life in France, but by the second anniversary what captured the imagination of a basically Christian nation was the role the Anzacs had now to perform in the Holy Land.

The ANZAC services and Christ

Some features of the Anzac services remind people of Christ's work, specifically the dawn services, which up until 1965 were both protestant and religious in nature ( Sometimes a service is held at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. (Mark 16:2).

It is perhaps significant that after the national remembrance of Easter of Christ's resurrection, that the protestants of a nation should get up at the suns rising and remember the day when the first action was taken, that the way of the kings of the sun's rising may be prepared. And they do this with the singing of hymns and the sounding of a horn playing first the “last post”, then silence of two minutes and then the “Reveille” a call played to rouse soldiers from slumber. This is a practical demonstration of the resurrection. And, on that day, on badges and memorials is the symbol of the ANZAC action at Gallipoli, still carried proudly by the armed forces, a sun's rising with a male crown in the centre. The ANZACs work over the years, more than any others, has been to prepare the way of the kings of the sun's rising.

How Odd to Remember This Day

And extraordinarily, though there was greater loss of life in other battles, though all battles ANZACs have taken part in are remembered, though there have been significant victories and despite a war coming to Australia's shores, no other day has supplanted that one. The landing at Gallipoli is given an unusual and very special place. Many have questioned its relevance over the years, but, the day is still remembered. There is even comment that it exceeds in importance Australia's national day. “Many Australians have now come to regard ANZAC Day as the true national day of the country” (Wikipedia).

It is unheard of that a nation would remember as significant a day their army landed on the wrong spot on a beach near an insignificant town in a minor sideshow battle, that they lost after foolishly persisting for too long, in a war they did not even start, that gained absolutely nothing for their home nation! Not only that, but the ANZACs were fighting in the name of a another nation, Britain and even that nation really had no argument with the Turks, who the ANZACs were fighting! Why in the world should that day be remembered at all? The world knows Australia remembers Gallipoli. This must be due to providence.

The battle for Gallipoli itself could be seen objectively as of marginal significance. However, what the Anzac's did in 1915 was something of extraordinary significance. If we look at the consequences and prophecy, the ANZAC sacrifice was for Israel. The effort in 1915 fulfilled prophecy as it was a “push” against the Ottomans, but the defeat was crucial, as that route to attack the Ottoman Empire was to be closed to force them to take another one. And that new route was extremely significant. It took them to Jerusalem. Retrospectively, the landing at Gallipoli was the beginning of the battle for Palestine.

It seems likely ANZAC day marks the beginning of the action that was directed to fulfilment of the prophecy of the events preparing the “way of the kings of the East”. And by the working of providence, God ensured that the day would not be forgotten. In 1916 on the first anniversary of that landing at Gallipoli Australians sensed the loss of life was a significant sacrifice due to a conjunction with Easter. By the second anniversary in 1917 the battle the ANZACs were fighting was for the Holy Land. The day was given “sanctity”. Perhaps there has been something powerful for the protestant Christian in the fact that there was no personal national gain in the loss of life in that battle, but rather that lives were given in abstract altruism for the God-given benefit of another nation. Not Britain, as it turned out, but Israel.

Australian Jewish News,,

Crombie, Kelvin (1998) ANZACS Empires And Israel's Restoration, VET, Western Australia.

goaustralia,,, www.

6) Of Donkeys, Mules and Horses

The imagery of ANZAC day is always associated with a man and a donkey. In 2011 John Simpson is being considered for a Victoria Cross.

Perhaps the whole Anzac tradition is best embodied in the story of Simpson and his Donkey. John Simpson Kirkpatrick was a stretcher-bearer in the Medical Corps, who, although separated from his unit, continued to work on his own initiative. On the night of April 25th, he found and took over a donkey which he used to help evacuate the wounded. Simpson escaped death so many times he was completely fatalistic... No one knows how many men he saved but it certainly numbered in the hundreds. He died with a piece of shrapnel in his heart on May 19th. He was 23.
A New Zealand counterpart. Lieutenant James Henderson also acquired a donkey which he used to move wounded men to the dressing stations behind the trenches.

Woah! Where did the donkeys come from? Why not horses?

It seems a number of donkeys were picked up in Greece to carry water. The British command realised the terrain of the Dardanelles was not very suitable for the big Australian horses, and the light horse brigade was parted from their horses. Instead, nearly a thousand mules were used. A mule is from a donkey father and horse mother. The mules were attached to two units. One was the Indian Mule Cart Transport Corps, the other was the Zion Mule Corps. Both had about 8 officers and 200 men trained to look after the animals.

Jack Simpson who seems to have found and used up to four donkeys, was noted as associating himself with an Indian Unit ( The Indians and Jews were occasionally mistaken for Turks. Many of the Jews could not speak English, speaking Russian, Arabic and even German! Their role, however, was crucial, as using the mules they supplied ammunition and like Private William Henry of the NZ Medical Corps, Simpson and Henderson they evacuated the wounded. They were often exposed to Turkish fire. In the third Battle of Krithia in June a small Orthodox Jew coaxed and lead his mules with necessary ammunition and food through Turkish fire and certain suicide without flinching. He was wounded that day but died in Alexandria.

While the Indians were part of the Commonweath, the Zion Mule Corps was entirely made up of Jews, who were not British subjects. The British commanders of this unit realised they were in the presence of something historic. This was the first all Jewish fighting unit of people, mostly from Palestine, to go into battle since Roman times– with a distinctively Jewish emblem and flag. They went into battle with the ANZACs. Two very young nations who were fighting as a recognisable unit landed at Gallipoli supported by the first recognisable unit of one of the oldest nations reborn, who provided mules for their transport. That landing was extremely significant.

Jewish connection to Donkeys and Mules

The mule or ass was associated with rulership in Israel. Even though the horse was available the kings and judges rode on mules and asses (donkeys). King David rode a mule (1 kings 1:3) and his son Solomon riding on his mule was symbolic of the handing over of the kingship (1 Kings1:38,44) . King David's sons rode mules (2 Samuel 13:29, 18:19). Abimelech's 30 sons rode ass (donkey) colts as symbols of their position as rulers of 30 cities (Jdg 10:1-4), as do the sons of Abdon the son of Hillel who judged Israel (Jdg 12:13-14). The death of the last King of Judah, Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, is likened to the death of an ass (Jer 22:18-19). Zechariah says that the Jewish Messiah would come riding on an ass:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes unto you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Abraham and the fathers of Israel rode asses (Gen 22:3,42,27). Moses rides an ass (Exodus 4:20). The Jewish Law says much about the treatment of the ass, including that it rest on the Sabbath but does not mention the horse. Israel predicts Judah is to be associated with an ass's colt (Gen 49:11) and Issacher is a strong ass (Gen 49:14). Israel is associated with an ox and an ass by Yahweh

The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. (Isa 1:3)

The God of Israel, Yahweh, says when they turn to Assyria that they have become wild asses among the nations.

Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure. For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers. Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes. (Hos 8:8-10 KJV).

It is extraordinary that the very first time the Jews are again to fight they are not allowed by the British high command to bear arms, but have to accept that if they wished to fight at all they would have to lead asses! Crombie (1998) recounts how Trumpledor, who was negotiating for the Jewish Palestinian refugees in Egypt in 1914 not to be repatriated to other countries, suggested a Jewish Legion to the British. General Maxwell, who saw he had a real need, suggested instead a unit for mule transport. This split the Jews who thought that the re-birth of a nation and the first “really Jewish troops in the whole history of the exile” should not be associated with the humble mule! In addition the mule being the result of the sterile union of a male donkey and a female horse was forbidden in Jewish law (Leviticus 19:19 see also Zootorah Mule) They tried instead to approach France, but were rejected, leading them to accept Maxwell's offer. Further details of this can be found at Jewish Library Gallipoli

If the Jews are inextricably linked to the donkey (ass), the Gentile nations are associated with horse. Solomon writes of the difference between horses and asses. An ass must be led gently, not whipped.

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass.... (Proverbs 26:3)

That it is a characteristic of the servant of Yahweh that they respond to the word in the ear, not a whip, may be a reason for the association. Also the psalmist writes:

There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. (Psa 33:16-17 KJV)

Nations who are associated with the horse, who rely on its strength. Horses were common in Egypt at the time of Joseph and Pharoah and the army of Egypt rode horses (Exodus 14:23). Israel saw the horse was of no value to them when the waters destroyed Pharoah's hosts. Joshua a number of times speaks of facing enemy horses in battle (Joshua 11). David conquers Hadaezer's horses (2 Sam 8:4). Solomon's horses come out of Egypt (1Kings 10:28). Benhadad of Syria gathers horses (1 kings 2:10). Ezekiel speaks of the Assyrian and the horse (Ezek 23). And so it is the ANZACs who are associated with the horse in the last great cavalry charge in history to take Beersheba.

The Nations of the Horse

New Zealand and Australia were the horse at the turn of the 20th century and the pride of their army was the light horse divisions. 'Banjo' Paterson, who was thought a voice of Australia, published in 1895 an incredibly popular collection of verses, titled “The Man from Snowy River” a quintessential horseman. The “Song of Federation” was about sacrifice in warfare, “there was never prize so costly that we bought it, though we paid for its purchase with our blood”. He also wrote a poem called The Reveille. The Reveille is the trumpet song that wakes the soldier. The last verse reads:

While our Empires Bounds are wide,
Britons all stand side by side.
Boot and saddle, mount and ride
Hear the bold reveille.

The soldier here is one who rides a horse, for Empire.

'Banjo' Paterson contributed directly to the success of the charge of the Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba. He sold his property and went to London when war broke out hoping to be a war correspondent. For some reason he was not able to do this. Instead somehow he ended up as Remount Officer to the A.I.F in Egypt in 1916. He sourced Australian horses, some 50,000, and trained them for the Palestine campaign. He was given also a group of horsemen from bush areas he called 'Australia's last hope' whom he trained and made an effective force. The horse in the era of the machine gun was an anachronism, and in a desert region with limited water, it was even a liability. Paterson writes later in the 1921 “Happy Dispatches”

I arrive at the front with my horses just in time to hand them over and to see the start of the expedition after all Allenby’s months of preparation. Brigadier-General George Onslow,.. is in charge of a brigade of Australian light horse. He comes over for a chat. “It’s all or nothing with us,” he says. “We have to smash right through the Turks and come out on the other side. I think Julius Caesar would have funked trying it. If we get held up we’ll be out of provisions and horse-feed in a couple of days, and then you can write to me at Constantinople. But don’t worry, we’ll get through all right. We’re more frightened of Allenby behind us than we are of the Turks in front. We’ll go through Palestine looking over our shoulders, and the first thing you’ll know we’ll be in Damascus.”

In fact the victory may be due to Australians knowing they had to break through to the water at Beersheba that very day to water the horses. Paterson was of that opinion,

The New Zealanders whose horses had not had a drink for seventy hours and the Australians who were in much the same fix, rode right over the Turkish trenches at full gallop—against the principles of war you understand—but still it came off.

Fortuitously, circumstances were such that the horse was used effectively to win Beersheba.

The battle for Beersheba is a remarkable battle, so remarkable, it would not be forgotten. This would mean the world would know that to win Beersheba from the Ottomans was special. The ancestor of the Israelis, Isaac, dwelt there as a sojourner. His son Jacob returned to the altar there before he goes to Egypt, and is there re-assured they would come back out of Egypt to that place. Beersheba is the definition of the edge of ancient Israel, which was defined as being from Dan to Beersheba. To take Beersheba from the Ottomans was to begin to conquer Israel.

But, more importantly, Beersheba is the place where the Father of Israel, Abraham dug a well and made a covenant over that well of water with the inhabitants of the land to allow them to dwell as strangers (Genesis 21:21-33). This was repeated with Isaac who also dug a well for water there (Genesis 26). It is at Beersheba God appeared to Isaac and said,

I am the God of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham's sake. And he built an altar there, and called upon the name of Yahweh, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well. (Genesis 26:24-25)

Beersheba means the “well of the oath” and the covenant made there was the following, suggested by the king Abimelek who ruled the land.

That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched you, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent you away in peace: you are now the blessed of Yahweh. (Genesis 26:28-29)

Note this covenant was suggested and brokered by those in possession of the land to the fathers of Israel who had been promised that Land.

The covenant after striving for the wells of water was repeated over Beersheva in 1917. On October 31, at the same time the wells of Beersheva were being secured from the Ottomans and the horses were being watered, Balfour was proposing to the War Cabinet that a move be made to establish a Jewish national home with some form of British, American or other protectorate, where Jews could “built up by means of education, agriculture and industry a real centre of national culture” (Crombie, 1998). This offer was not that of an independent state. Note the parallel, the people possessing the wells of Beersheba offer to the descendants of Israel a covenant that will allow them to dwell as sojourners there. The descendants of Abraham were to be a stranger once again in the Land promised to the Fathers. Crombie points out it was on the very day that the newspapers announced the victory at Beersheba, that the Balfour declaration or 'covenant' was made to the Zionists. But there is more, just as Abimelek was asking Isaac to do them “no hurt”, so the British were making the declaration to ensure the Jewish communities support, in effect to “do us no hurt”.

The means of offering this declaration was the role of the nation's horses. Isaiah says

Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off... they shall declare my glory among the Nations. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, said Yahweh... (Isaiah 66:20)

This is in the future, but at Beersheba, it was the efforts “upon horses” that allowed those “of the isles afar off” to start to bring the brethren “out of all nations”. Without the victory at Beersheba the Balfour Declaration may not have meant anything. Until that point there was no surety the British could offer anything. The ANZAC push to Jerusalem featured work upon a huge number of horses, 50,000 and also upon 10,000 mules (Paterson, 1921).

And all accounts agree that the taking of Beersheba was extraordinary. Perhaps in this case it can be said.

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31)

Certainly a lot of dedicated work went into the preparation and training of the horses. But on the day, the attack came from a direction the Turks did not expect (the East), and, this was due to the unexpected success of a decoy indicating the British would be attacking Gaza and that preparations remained secret.

7) The Man and the Donkey

It is said that Jack Simpson was separated from his unit where he fortuitously found a donkey. It is clear from all accounts that the donkeys and especially the mules were critical to to the operation. But the power of the image left by the use of the donkey is curious. Added to the fact that Simpson was not even Australian, why do Australians of all images there are value this image? In 1916 the conjunction with Easter led Christian Australian's to associate the loss of life with the idea of a sacrifice and to sanctify the battle.

It just so happens that a man with a donkey is part of the deliverance message of Easter.

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. (Matthew 21:5-9)

Here we have the deliverer riding a donkey and leading a colt. At Easter many think of this incident. At ANZAC day to add sanctity they made a hero of a man with a donkey. Simpson's work is commended based on its bravery, but the image of the hero with the donkey is one loaded with religious connotations. In any case it is obvious that Simpson requisitioned it, just as Yeshua did. And the real point of interest is that the animal was not a horse, but a donkey, an ass.

If we have any doubt that Australians understood this image we only have to read 'Banjo' Paterson's “When Dacey rode the Mule”.

'Twas in a small up country
When we were boys at school,
There came a circus with a clown,
Likewise a bucking mule.
The clown announced a scheme they had
The mule was such a king-
They’d give a crown to any lad
Who’d ride him round the ring....
And, gentle reader, do not scoff
Nor think a man a fool—
To buck a porous-plaster off
Was pastime to that mule.
The boys got on- he bucked like sin;
He threw them in the dirt.
An then the clown would raise a grin
By asking, “Are you hurt?”
But Johnny Dacey came one night,
The crack of all the school;
Said he, “I’ll win the crown all right;
Bring in your bucking mule.” ....
But soon there rose a galling shout
Of laughter, for the clown
From somewhere in his pants drew out
A little paper crown.
He placed the crown on Dacey’s head
While Dacey looked a fool;
“Now, there’s your crown, my lad,” he said,
“For riding of the mule!”
The band struck up with “Killaloe”,
And “Rule Britannia, Rule”,
And“Young Man from the Country”,
When Dacey rode the mule.

The image used here is made powerful due to its closeness to the one in the Bible. Paterson's images come from linking the words “sin”, “mule” and “king”. This poem was re-published in 1917 while Banjo Paterson was in Egypt in a collection with 'Waltzing Matilda', 'The Scapegoat' and 'The Reveille'.

The image of a man, a saviour, with a donkey has power because at Easter the world remembers a saviour coming riding an ass. We remember they said, “Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). A king coming to Jerusalem.

“Lest we forget”

Topics: sacrifice, WW1, Israel

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