ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day. When war broke out in 1914 (WWI) Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany. So early March 1915, Australians, New Zealanders and British arrived on Lemnos island, preparing for the logistics for the upcoming campaign and organizing the island as their base for the battle which was about to start.
The locals (Lemnians), treated the ANZACS as friends and allies, offering them a good life and relaxing time during their stay in the island. Photos and memorabilia from the period exist in many of Australia’s museums and many of these will be presented to the new Anzac museum in Mοudros town, the place where the Commonwealth fleet harbored during the war, and also the site where the Gallipoli (Gelipolu) Campaign started.
The Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and the 25th of April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.
In Lemnos island, there 2 Commonwealth War Graves that keep in their soil more than 1300 dead from WWI (mainly) and from WW2. One is in Mοudros Bay and the other one is in Portianou village, the place that Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty used as his nest to design and follow of the preparations of this great moment in the history of the world.
In recent years, Mr. Stelios Mantzaris, an active businessman and friend of the island, has worked tirelessly in order for Lemnos to regain its rightful place in world history and become a widely known island for the historic role it played in 1915. 2015 marks the Centenary of the Campaign, and “The Lemnos’ Friends of Anzac” Association, with its President, Mr. Stelios Mantzaris, is preparing a big list of events for the commemorations, under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, North Aegean Prefecture, Greek National Tourism Organization, Greek Chamber of Hotels , Central Union of municipalities in Greece, HABC (Hellenic Australian Business Council), Lemnos Hoteliers Association.