In 2014, humanity celebrates the centenary of World War I. With nearly 40 million casualties, nine million of them deaths, an drawing for children Irkutsk generation was almost wiped out. One hundred years have passed since Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, since Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and since the lights began to go out all over Europe.
It is a milestone, and one we cannot be proud of. There are things to be proud of, however, and first among them is the bravery and willpower of the men and women who served in the conflict. During one of the most harrowing periods in history, a generation of heroes emerged. On April 25, 1915, the Allies began the Gallipoli landings—the start of a campaign that would go down in history as one of the most disastrous operations ever undertaken. Over the next eight months, there would be nearly 500,000 casualties, both Allied and Ottoman, with a disproportionate number coming from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Jack Hazlitt was among the Australian troops who were part of the ill-fated campaign.
Having lied about his age in order to enlist, Hazlitt became a message runner, crossing the trenches in full view of enemy snipers. Corporal Rex Boyden was a Sydney native ordered to participate in an assault on Hill 60. He and his unit had only covered around 250 yards of ground when the order to fall back was given. Suddenly, Boyden felt a thud on the left side of his stomach and crumpled to the ground, leaving him stuck between the Allies and the Turks. One of the most legendary stories of ANZAC bravery earned Albert Jacka, from Wedderburn, Australia, a Victoria Cross. On May 19, 1915, Jacka’s mates provided covering fire on Turkish positions as he ran behind enemy lines, dropped in on the Turks, and attacked. Jacka shot five of the enemy, bayonetted two others, and forced the rest to flee.
There are many stories, from both World Wars, of British and American prisoners successfully escaping captivity. However, tales of Germans who did the same are few and far between. One such man, Oberleutnant Gunther Pluschow, had a harrowing story of escape and survival that would have made his Allied counterparts proud. On November 6, 1914, as Japan declared war on Germany and the conditions in Tsingtao became perilous, Pluschow boarded his plane and escaped the city. In California, Pluschow obtained another fake passport that allowed him to travel across neutral America, boarding a steamer in New York and sailing to Gibraltar. It was there that Pluschow was finally apprehended by the British. He was sent to England and interned in the POW camp at Donington Hall.