During World War I the legend of ANZAC became the proud possession of all in the AIF and most Australians. Since then, the anniversary of 25 April 1915 has been commemorated each year as ANZAC Day.

The first ANZAC Day was conducted in 1916. The troops observed it in various ways, and in Australia there was strong support for the day, with between 60,000 and 100,000 people packing the Domain in Sydney for a service.

By 1925 huge ANZAC Day marches were being conducted in all the main cities. Smaller places had their own observances. Most states marked the day with a public holiday, and within two years they all did. Second World War ex-servicemen, and later others, accepted ANZAC Day as theirs too. In immediate post-war years they swelled the numbers of veterans marching. Now 94 years later, towns and cities throughout Australia and New Zealand all hold ANZAC Day memorial services as a tribute to those who fought for our countries so many years ago.

For today’s post, I would like to introduce you to my Great Grandpa … Otto Rafael Winter. Born in Finland in 1880, he was a seaman for a number of years before jumping ship in Australia in 1907. He became naturalised, and in 1916 signed up with the Australian Imperial Force, and his first landing was at Marselles. Wounded several times, and suffering from mustard gas poisoning while a tunneller at Ypres, he survived, made it home in 1919, and then lived on to the good age of 81.

The new movie ‘Beneath Hill 60‘ is a based on the true story about these tunnellers, although it is told from the miner tunnellers perspective, not the soldier tunnellers’ side – but it still looks to be an excellent movie, one that I hope to see soon.

While there is still much for me to learn about my Great Grandpa’s life, thanks to the fantastic military records that the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia have available, I know so much of his military life. This is a thank you to the archives offices for making these records accessible!!

Here’s just a few links that you may find of use when researching your Australian military ancestors:
The AIF Project
Australian War Memorial
Australians at War
Commonwealth War Grave Commission
Mapping Our Anzacs
Military Historical Society of Australia
National Library of Australia
Russian Anzacs
World War 2 Nominal Roll