The True Horrors of Gallipoli Revealed in Hugh Anderson’s Letters

The Australian and New Zealand troopers had a tough battlefront when they fought at Gallipoli. The Australian government was excited about being a federation and readily sent troops to fight against the Turks in Gallipoli on the side of the commonwealth. However, the battle was not one for amateurs. What everybody thought was going to be a quick get in and get out scenario, turned out to be long months of gruesome fighting before returning home. The day the troops left the Australian shore is remembered as a national day in Australia. However, over time, people have either forgotten the intensity of the war, and the number of wounded soldiers or they can’t imagine a time when things were not as comfortable as it is now. To refresh memories and to educate the younger generation, the Australian government continually updates information from whatever reliable source they can find to keep the memory alive. One such blessing was Hugh Anderson and his letters.

The trooper spent time in Gallipoli, France, Greece and then in England. Throughout his time, he wrote letters and not just a few, but long letters to his parents as well as relatives. The letters were truly gruesome in their own right and had full horrors explained in them. The descriptions of the places he visited were penned with accuracy, and so were all the gory details about the fighting. His first letter was to his father on April 12th, 1916. The letter describes how they were now at a closer firing line of about 12 miles away from a small town. He beautifully describes the small town and how the people in the city lived. He even writes about the farm animals who have been enjoying their life and adding flavor to the town. The picture he paints about the places transport the reader to the era to imagine precisely what the trooper was visualizing; a prolific letter writer indeed.

As a person, Hugh was religious and was very clear about what was right and wrong. In his letters, while they were filled with positivity and looking at the good things around, they also pointed out the negatives and how they have to be set right. Over time, his letters started taking a turn from looking more at the positives and showed how much of danger and fear was encountered. The letters that once boasted “beautiful countrysides,” and “clean and neat people” was now littered with “my life is full of fleas” and “the trenches aren’t beautiful, they are beast works.” He reflects on the cost of war for everyone involved and not just in money but in lives as well. On the 3rd of May 1917, a last unfinished letter arrived. He couldn’t bear the horrors and was praying that the war would end. Trooper Hugh Anderson was killed two days later on May 5th in France.  His family were devastated by the news and wanted to do everything to help him be remembered. The younger brother typed out his letters and made a book out of it, that was then laid on the grave of Hugh Anderson.