Anzac centenary: Australia marks soldiers' WW1 departure

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Media captionAlbany was the last sight of home for many of the young men setting off to war, as Phil Mercer reports

Thousands of people gathered in the Australian town of Albany to mark the departure of 30,000 Anzac troops 100 years ago during World War One.

The remote town in Western Australia was where many of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers set sail for Europe on 1 November 1914.

The commemorations featured a re-enactment of the convoy's departure.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key attended the events on Saturday.

Australia's entry into World War One began with the departure of the soldiers on 38 troop ships, protected by Australian, New Zealand and Japanese battle cruisers and warships.

Image caption Japan, which helped protect Anzac troops in 1914, sent a warship to take part in the centenary events

Many were sent to fight in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of 1915, during which thousands of lives were lost.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told those attending the service that the Anzac troops would never be forgotten. "The scale of sacrifice and loss was beyond anything imaginable," he added.

Australia's governor-general Peter Cosgrove said the soldiers would have been unaware of the horrors of World War One.

"There would have been excitement, trepidation", he told the BBC. "I think there was also a sense of exhilaration because the rumour at the time was that this war would be over quite quickly."

The military re-enactment on Albany's King George Sound waters featured five Royal Australian Navy warships, two from New Zealand and one from Japan.

Image copyright AFP/getty
Image caption Senior military officials attended Saturday's commemoration service

About 800 soldiers took part in a march through Albany's streets ahead of Mr Abbott's commemorative address.

Colin Barnett, the premier of Western Australia, and Mr Key also gave speeches before wreaths were laid at Albany Peace Park.

It is estimated that over 60,000 people attended Saturday's events. Amongst them were senior veterans, Maori and Japanese soldiers.

Anzac soldiers and the Gallipoli campaign

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Troops land at Anzac Cove during the failed Gallipoli campaign

Landed in Gallipoli in what is now Turkey on 25 April 1915 along with British and French troops:

  • Three landings were planned to clear Turkish soldiers from the area, with little success
  • Anzac soldiers did manage to secure a bridgehead at Anzac Cove
  • Amid disease-ridden conditions, all soldiers were evacuated in December and January
  • The Allies lost around 214,000 men, including more than 8,000 Australians and more than 2,700 New Zealanders

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