AALA Anzac Day Reflection - 25 April, 2021
The ANZAC spirit is a diverse and inclusive one. Observed annually on 25 April, Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces (in Gallipoli) during World War I. It now commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations”.
World War I, coming shortly after Federation, helped to forge Australia’s sense of national identity as a new nation, which came to be defined by courage and mateship and to be seen as the land of the ‘fair go’. People of all races banded together wearing the same uniform, fighting side by side at the front lines and behind enemy lines to protect the place they called home.
Despite the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and the Commonwealth Defence Act 1909, two pieces of Commonwealth legislation that sought to protect Australia's European heritage, there was considerable diversity amongst the diggers, including Chinese, Russians, Greeks, Romanians, Finns, Brazilians, Filipinos and Indians. Further, 1,000 Indigenous Australians served in World War I and around 70 fought at Gallipoli.
It should be acknowledged that Asian Australians played an important part in the ANZAC story and were awarded five Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCM), fourteen Military Medals (MM), two Belgian Croix de Guerre and three Mentions in Dispatches. In proportion to their numbers, this represents a much higher ratio of gallantry awards per head than the rest of the Australian Imperial Force.
There are many stories of distinction; five of which are below.
- Caleb James Shang was the most decorated Australian of Chinese descent in World War I. Born in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, he was first awarded the DCM for bravery and then a Bar to his DCM (in effect, a second DCM) as well as the MM. He was cited for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on numerous occasions’;
- William “Billy” Sing, born in Clermont, Queensland, was awarded the DCM for his actions as a sniper at Gallipoli, Mentioned in Dispatches for gallantry and awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre;
- Corporal William Loo Long was born in Marsden, New South Wales. He was first awarded the MM with the recommendation for the award stating that he ‘has always shown considerable dash and courage’ and, later on, a Bar to his MM (in effect, a second MM);• Sergeant Leslie Kew-Ming, born in St Arnaud, Victoria, served in Belgium, was wounded in action and awarded the MM. He later volunteered to serve for Australia during World War II by becoming a machine-gun instructor;
- Leslie Oliver Langtip (originally, “Lang Tip”), born in Tarraville, Victoria, served with three of his brothers in World War I. He was awarded the DCM for bravery, with the citation for his award reading: ‘… this non-commissioned officer gave valuable assistance in the capture of a field gun, and showed great initiative and courage.
We remember in times of peace that our cultural diversity has become a significant element within Australian community. We are proud to remember the long-standing contribution that Asian Australians have made in every area of Australian life, including during times of war, conflict and peacekeeping operations.
Asian Australian Lawyers Association