Australia and New Zealand on Saturday marked 100 years since their first convoy of troops left for the battlefields of World War I, with thousands attending events to commemorate the “heavy day in history”.
The convoy left the Western Australian town of Albany on November 1, 1914, carrying 20,000 Australian and 8,500 New Zealand soldiers bound for Gallipoli in modern day Turkey and later the battlefields of Europe.
“All were sailing into history,” Abbott told a commemorative service overlooking the ocean, referring to the convoy.
“The first World War was the crucible in which the Australian identity was forged. In 1914 we were a country with a flag and a parliament but little sense of nationhood.
“The baptism of fire that was the Great War changed all that. The scale of sacrifice and loss was beyond anything imaginable.”
Losses in Gallipoli were hard, with the offensive claiming the lives of more than 11,000 New Zealand and Australian troops in a matter of months, although worse battles were to follow in the Great War, Key said.
“In a war that engulfed the world, our young nations were among the hardest hit. No community, rural or urban, was left untouched by loss,” Key said.
“But the service, and sacrifice, of those who fought for us — would play a critical role in forging our national identities.
“Our experiences in the First World War marked an important point in our coming of age as countries. They made us look at who we were, and we came from colonies to became nations,” Key said.