Australian Military History

Throughout the history of Grant’s we have been known for ‘True Grit’, which is reflected in the genesis of our surname and our Clan War Cry ‘Standfast’.  Grant’s have been Loyalists to Crown and Country throughout the centuries in service and sacrifice in their name. Grant’s in 1729 are widely recognized as being integral in forming the original Highland Regiment the famous Black Watch 43rd RegimentColonel William Grant 9th Laird of Ballindalloch, Major George Grant, Lieutenant-General Francis Grant, and Lieutenant Lewis Grant were instrumental in the formation of the Regiment.  On display at Fort George is the Seafield collection of Muskets, bayonets raised and owned by Grant’s.  This effort started a lengthy history for many Grants of Military service, those same features continued for Grant’s in Australia.

In Australia Frontier warfare occurred between 1788 and 1930 between Indigenous Australians and British settlers across the continent, however between 1861 and 1864 the first organised deployment of personnel from Australia occurred to assist the New Zealand colonial government in their war against Maori in Taranaki, HMSS Victoria was dispatched and engaged against Maori fortifications.  Over 2,500 ‘Australian Colonialists’ formed four Waikator Regiments and the Company of Forest Rangers in the Invasion of the Waikato.

Between 1870 and 1901 each Colony was responsible for their own defence. During this time Australian colonies operated under the authority of the British Crown.  NSW Colonial forces were sent to the Sudan in 1885 numbering some 770 joining the Scots Grenadier and Coldstream Guards and saw action in Tamai and Berber before reaching a garrison in Suakin.  Nine died of disease during the return journey while three were wounded during the campaign. Two Grant’s participated in the Sudan, Robert Grant at 32 a bricklayer by trade enlisted as a Private in the Infantry and Private Angus Cameron Grant, Carpenter by trade born at Rosshire, Scotland enlisted aged 31 both became our Nation’s first Grant servicemen.

Other theatres of War where Australians have served include South African War (Boer War), 1899–1902, with 23 Grant’s serving and Sergeant Neil Grant of 1st Victorian Contingent became the first Grant to die in the service of his new Nation.

Sergeant Neil Grant

China (Boxer Rebellion) two Grant’s served Abel Seaman 2nd class Russel Grant on HMCS Protector and Able Seaman Donald Grant of Victorian Naval Contingent, 1900–01.

Military Conflicts involving Australia

First World War, 1914–18, Second World War, 1939–45, Occupation of Japan, 1946–51 Korean War, 1950–53, Malayan Emergency, 1950–60, Indonesian Confrontation, 1963–66, Vietnam War, 1962–75, First Gulf War, 1990–91, East Timor 1999-2005, Afghanistan 2001-present, Iraq 2003-2011 and Peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Australian Military are known as ANZAC’s and the sacrifice of all servicemen and women is commemorated on ANZAC Day 25th April and is probably Australia’s most important national occasion, as it helps define our Nations character. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War landing at Gallipoli.  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.

This day is special to Australians, because when war broke out in 1914, 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.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25th April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke 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. 11 Grant’s gave the ultimate sacrifice at Gallipoli.

News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 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.

The 25th of April was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916. It was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. In London over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets. A London newspaper headline dubbed them “the knights of Gallipoli”. Marches were held all over Australia; in the Sydney march, convoys of cars carried wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended by nurses. For the remaining years of the war, ANZAC Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities.

During the 1920s ANZAC Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who had died during the war. In 1927, for the first time every state observed some form of public holiday on ANZAC Day. By the mid-1930s, all the rituals we now associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games – were firmly established as part of ANZAC Day culture.

With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day also served to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in that war. In subsequent years the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include Australians killed in all the military operations in which Australia has been involved.

ANZAC Day was first commemorated at the Memorial in 1942. There were government orders prohibiting large public gatherings in case of a Japanese air attack, so it was a small occasion, with neither a march nor a memorial service. Since then, ANZAC Day has been commemorated at the Memorial every year. Australians recognise 25th April as an occasion of national remembrance, which takes two forms. Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing – across the nation. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. Commemorative ceremonies are more formal and are held at war memorials around the country. In these ways, ANZAC Day is a time when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war.

The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for attacks, the stand-to was repeated at sunset.

Services were originally very simple and followed the military routine. In many cases, attendance at the dawn service was restricted to veterans, while the daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers. Before dawn, the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes’ silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the Last Post and then conclude the service with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up.

In more recent times families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, those services have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers, and rifle volleys. Other services, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.

AIF Rising sun