The Art of the ANZAC Book (1916)




The Anzac Book. Written and Illustrated in Gallipoli by The Men of Anzac. For the benefit of Patriotic Funds connected with the A.& N.Z.A.C. (London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne, 1916). Introduction by Sir W.R. Birdwood, pp. ix-x (ANZAC December 19, 1915). "Editor's Note" by The ANZAC Book Staff (Aegean Sea, December 29, 1915).

See the facs. PDF version.



The Coloured Plates 




[Below are some other covers of ANZAC magazines from the period which are quite patriotic and optimistic as one would expect.]

Anzac_Magazine_Cover_1916-368.jpg  anzac-book-colour-plate350x500.jpg

This is a famous book created by some of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who landed at Gallipoli [now Gelibolu] in Turkey on 25 April 1915. It was part of a British and French attempt to knock the Ottoman Empire (allied with Germany and Austria) out of the war and to relieve the Russian Empire fighting on the eastern front. It failed to achieve these objectives and the soldiers were withdrawn by 9 January, 1916. The invading forces had 44,092 men killed and the defending Turks lost 86,692 men killed. Of these deaths, the ANZAC forces lost 11,430 men killed (Australia 8,709 and NZ 2,721). Given the very low population of both the countries the death toll was seen as quite heavy.

The book was compiled in late November in order explicitly to raise money for the war effort but with the additional, unstated goal of telling the world about how the ANZACs had coped in battle. It contains material by both officers and men, including C.E.W. Bean who is listed as one of the editors. He later went on to write a famous official history of Australian involvement in WW1 and helped establish the "ANZAC myth" in Australian history. Some of the material expresses frustration and even anger at some of the things that the enlisted men had to endure but this is rather muffled as I'm sure military censorship would have been very much in the back of their minds, as well as a fear of "letting down" their families back home. Publication was delayed because while the book was being edited the troops learned of plans to withdraw them early in the new year. This, in some respects the ANZAC Book became a farewell from the troops after enduring 9 months of fruitless combat.

The version of the book I got from Google also contains 2 other separate books of NZ material of a very similar nature. They are dated 1917 and 1918. If I make time I will post them online as well as they are most interesting. There are many images of Kiwis and a few Koalas which is how the artists distinguished between the 2 groups of soldiers.

This brief essay will be in two parts. The first will show the complete set of the 8 coloured plates which were used in the 200 page book. The second part will contain a selection of the other black and white cartoons and illustrations which provide some insight into the minds of the men who were present at Gallipoli in 1915. I will also include the quite famous drawings of the "ANZAC Alphabet".

Here are a couple of interesting illustrations which i suggest are trying to tell us another story about the ANZAC experience in the face of the military censors who no doubt would tolerate humour and  some mild criticism but nothing stronger than that. At the end of the "Editor's Note" (perhaps which many would not read very closely) there is a pair of illustrations which suggest that reality was quite different from the ideal view of sacrifice and combat which the troops would have learned at school and basic training. A common image throughout the work is that of the soldiers as mere beasts of burden or "donkeys" The second image appears at the very beginning of the book and shows a fairly cheeky soldier with a cigarette on his lips, looking a bit angry, and carrying a bandaged eye. The slogan is not "Season's Greetings" which one might have expected in a book published at Christmas time in 1915 but a more confrontational "Complaints of the Season." A third piece of evidence is the cover of the book, an image of which can be found at the top of this post. Here we see a very battered but determined looking digger with a bandaged head, standing before a bullet-ridden Union Jack (the Aussies did not have their own flag at this time). The army of the Empire had taken a beating at Gallipoli and the picture shows it.




What follows below are a set set of the 8 colored plates from the book:


Two  ANZAC Alphabets

"An ANZAC Alphabet" by Henderson is one of the best loved illustrations in the ANZAC Book (pp. 115-18). It is a 4 page rhyming poem based upon the letters of the alphabet with rather crude illustrations of each letter of the alphabet along with a two line poem which illustrates various aspects of the soldiers' life at Gallipoli. This was not the only ANZAC alphabet which appeared in the ANZAC Book. A second one "Another Attempt at an ANZAC Alphabet" (by "Ubique" [Latin for "everywhere"])  appeared a few pages later (pp. 146-47) but it was not illustrated and is less well known. It takes a roughly chronological approach to relating his experiences at Gallipoli and focuses more on the everyday hardships and fear faced by the soldiers.


The Henderson ANZAC Alphabet: An ANZAC Alphabet, by J.W.S. Henderson, R.G.A. [pp. 115-18].

First I will show images of the pages as they appeared in the original book, then images of the individual letters and their accompanying poem. Finally, thetext only version of the poem.


The Individual Letters and their Accompanying Poem




























A is the Aeroplane buzzing above,

Sending us tokens of friendship and love. 

B's Beachy Bill, such a marvel of cunning, 

A message from whom sends the best of us running.

C is the Chilliness felt in the feet 

When bullets commence to invade our retreat.

D is the Dug-out we've spent so much time at,

Working in hopes of defeating the climate.

E is for Eye-wash, a wonderful lotion, 

Employed by the man who is keen on promotion.

F is the Fool who got caught in a trap,

By pulling the tail of a mule in a sap.

G is the General devising a strafe,

And cursing his highly incompetent staff.

H is the wretched unfortunate Hill, 

Bombarded and mined but impregnable still.

I's the Intelligence officer who

Is said to exist at G.H.Q.

Forgive a digression and spare me the time

To think of a word that will make a good rhyme, 

And if the delay is a little provoking,

Remember it's J and the word may be Joking.

K is the Kaiser at home in Berlin,

Chanting his quaint maledictory hymn.

L is the Liar who loves to relate

Achi Baha has fallen, and gives you the date.

M is the Major observing from latitudes  

Tending to strained and discomforting attitudes.

N is the Navy bombarding a lair, 

Ignoring the fact that there's nobody there.

O is the Optimist struck by a splinter,

Happy to think he'll be home by the winter.

P is the spotlessly uniformed Paragon, 

Living in splendour on H.M.S. "Aragon."

Q is the Questions we ask with a wail,

Do skippers like whisky, and where is our mail?

R’s the report of the latest success, 

Strictly compiled for the use of the Press.

S is the Sniper; it's also his Sickness  

On finding his cover is lacking in thickness.

T’s the Telephonist cutting off stations 

In the midst of important conversations.

U is the Uniform made for the wenches,

Slightly deranged by a day in the trenches.

V is the Victory talked of by editors,

Who wish to get rid of importunate creditors.

Note.—This illustration has had to be postponed pending a final statement by Mr. Hilaire Belloc as to the date of the

certain exhaustion of German resources.

W stands for the various Wiles 

The Germans employ to keep Turkey in smiles.

But X is the Xmas that some day will come

When turkey and sauce will be served with our rum.

Y is the Youth who was scornful of danger, 

Till caught in the rear by a violent stranger.

Z is the Zenith of power and glory,

A fitting conclusion to this little story.



Another Attempt at an ANZAC Alphabet (by "Ubique," 21st Indian Mtn. Battery) [pp. 146-47].





A was the Anguish that spread o'er my face

When I saw the remarkable look of the place.

B's "Beachy Bill," who fired at my ship -

Punctured the funnel and gave me the "pip."

C was the"Crump" that went by with a screech

As I jumped from a lighter and fell on the beach.

D was the Daring I failed to display

When fragments of shrapnel came whizzing my way.

E was the Earth which I found in my hair

As I woke in the morning and crawled from my lair.

F were the Fleas, and also the Flies,

Who feed on a fellow wherever he lies.

G were the gripes that gripped me within -

The result of commodities packed in a tin.

H was the Hole that a howitzer made;

It would take me an hour to fill in with a spade.

I was the Idiot who stuck up my head

Before I was taught to take cover instead.

J was the Jam with our rations and rum -

We found it was almost invariably "Plum."

K was the Knowledge I quickly acquired

Of hiding whenever the enemy fired.

L was the Louse that lurked in my vest,

Reconnoitred my peson and tickled my chest.

M was the Monitor, firing at night,

Which kept me awake when “above” didn’t bite.

N was the “Night stunt,” with trembling heart,

Expecting each moment the Maxims would start.

O’s the 0.0. (Ordnance Officer); let’s give him a cheer—

It isn’t his fault that nothing comes here.

P are the Piers—see them shiver and shake

Whenever a launch makes a wash with her wake.

Q stands for “Quick,” to the tunnel we dash

When a horrible missile explodes with a crash.

R are the Rumours we hear every day

That the Turkish moral has quite faded away.

S is the gilded Staff Officer—who

Censors my letters and tears them in two.

T is the Taube that drones in the sky

(Thank goodness, I haven’t been ordered to fly!)

U is the Underground sap we expand—

There’s a twopenny tube to the Narrows in hand.

V is for Victory. How we shall sing

Rule, O Britannia, and God Save the King!

W the Wire we put round our works-

We generally find that it’s pinched by the Turks.

X the “X-periments” made with a bomb—

A neat little cross on a nice little tomb.

Y in the world have I ever been placed

In a trench of cold water right up to my waist?

Z is the mule corps recruited from Zion,

Bearers of water and rations of iron.

["Ubique," 21st Indian Mtn. Battery.]