The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.
By Sally-Ann Dillon
I found Jesus Christ and in 1911, when he guided me to move to Balranald in 1911, as home missionary in charge of the Presbyterian Church there. He subsequently guided me to enlist in the 8th Light Horse Regiment- expeditionary force during World War 1. It was a sensible choice, as I was an expert horseman with experience around Shoalhaven, prior to my relocation to remote Balranald.
I entered the War as LANCE CORPORAL GEORGE T. HUGHES but was affectionately known as "G.T."'.
I encountered a living hell in 1915 in what was known as the Dardanelles Campaign. I had studied the area in Ancient History years earlier but it was a very long way from my home in Balranald. The Dardanelles in North Western Turkey was in a strait forty miles long and from 1 to 4 miles wide.
There was an anxiety concerning supplies for the hundreds of troops settling in for the winter. Our Aussie attitude and reputation convinced us though that we would weather it all.
Mail das was a very important day for the soldiers and it was a bitter disappointment if those who expected letters did not receive them. I received very few but my Bible was a consolation on these days. The causalities transferred to the distant hospitals rarely received letters from home.
Rats took neither the Turk's or our side in this horrific war zone. They scurried between the trenches oblivious of the dangerous surrounds. Occasionally a dogs barking as they chased the rats could be heard. Often a sharp yelp followed that did not need an explanation.
Few soldiers knew that the decisions made by Churchill and other senior military officers, planning strategies had little realistic chance of success. Six hundred fellow Australians from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade joined us. It was clear that many of us appeared as seasoned soldiers but few knew their true objectives and the purpose of the pending dangerous battles. The words stoicism and chivalry so often used at home swirled in our heads, along with anticipation and fear.
I was always known as a Christian man, a soldier of Jesus Christ. I noted that my fellow soldiers who had scoffed at my faith earlier, now shook hands before they left the trenches and approached the Turk's gunfire - "Goodbye Cobber. God Bless you" were many soldier's final words. My blessings were so important to them. They approached their fate shaking, sweating, swearing and terrified. Turkey was an unrelenting enemy and the fatalities were staggering.
The first whistle blow sent many a brave young soldier to their deaths. One hundred and fifty fatalities instantly followed that sound - three times. Three whistle commands - three fatal charges.
A rifle with a full magazine convinced us not to fear and generally our troops were not afraid. Or were we just oblivious of the future outcome? The men in the first line of attack knew their fate, as the Turks could be clearly seen opposite with their machine guns accurately aimed.
Tragically many of these poor souls charged with unloaded rifles with fixed bayonets and were unable to return fire. The death toll was staggering. Many lay there and were listed "missing in action" to family at home. Often fatalities were not reported until many months later.
My regiment was the first over the top of dead man's land and the trench was instantly littered with bodies of my fellow soldiers. Chin up and my arms outstretched, I waited trembling for the final bullet.
My faith was my rock, as I surged forward between dead and dying horses and witnessed the slaughter on both sides. Machine guns sounded unrelentingly. Trenches littered with bodies then offered no protection. Because of the death toll the 4th line of attack was called off, but some troops misunderstood this direction in the chaos and charged forward yelling and faced a senseless brutal death.
Where was my God at the Battle of the NEK, that narrow bloodied stretch of ridge on the Gallipoli Peninsula?
I fought for my country, my King and MY GOD.
The blood soaked grounds of the NEK should never be forgotten. My favourite passage from Corinthians says it all. "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen".
When Australian Commonwealth burial parties returned to the peninsula in 1919 hundreds of scattered bones lay everywhere, Sadly only five graves are identified at this barren site.
Lance Corporal George T Hughes was among the 234 dead and wounded from the 8th Light Horse Brigade and another 138 from the 10th Light Horse Regiment.