A KANGAROO FLAT resident has discovered an ancestor he didn't even know existed landed at Gallipoli 106 years ago.
Bill Edwards found out about his great uncle's journey to the battlefield that forged Australia's identity after his uncle George passed away.
His family found a treasure trove of documents while cleaning George's room out following his death.
Bill is not surprised that he never knew of his great uncle Frank's link to the Anzac legend.
"Dad never spoke about any of that," he said.
"To have that family connection now, though, is something quite special."
Bill and other family members are preparing to donate the documents to the Bendigo RSL.
They include a letter detailing Private Frank Edwards' movements as Anzac forces withstood heavy fighting to secure a beachhead on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign.
Frank sent the letter back home to a family member as he recovered from a gunshot wound inflicted in the opening stage of a doomed attempt to defeat the Ottoman Empire on its home turf.
"Just a line to let you know I am still living," the letter begins.
"We had a box on at last, and things were very lively."
Frank details how Anzacs packed into boats just before dawn and rowed towards the shore, braving heavy machine gun and cannon fire as they arrived "just under a big cliff".
There, Frank's boat was hit by bullets. Others nearby sank as artillery shells landed on 40 men at a time.
"We had to jump out of the boats into the water and in places it was up over my head," Frank wrote.
"We had full marching order up, which weighs about 900lbs, and when that got wet it was fairly heavy. I was just about done when I got there.
"The bullets were falling in the water just like hail. It was a wonder any of us landed at all."
A few hundred men did reach the shore and charged Ottoman positions, "driving them back about three miles in four or five hours", Frank wrote.
"But we lost a lot of men."
Frank was shot roughly around noon.
"It went through my arm just above the elbow, I am leaving here in the morning for the base and will be back in the trenches in about a week's time," he wrote.
Frank appears not to have participated in any more active fighting and he ended up in England after a period in a hospital in Malta.
"I believe his arm never came right," Bill said.
Frank was among 2000 Anzacs who were killed or injured during the bloody fighting that marked the first day of the conflict, out of a force of 16,000 men.
The day was the first experience of combat for the vast majority of those who landed at Gallipoli.
Frank's descendants are yet to establish what he did in the period between his injury and his medical discharge in mid-1916.
Anzac forces had continued to fight at Gallipoli until 20 December, 1915, when they pulled off what is widely regarded as one of the few ringing successes of the sorry campaign - a secret evacuation under the cover of darkness.
The campaign may have been a failure but the characteristics that Anzacs like Frank displayed during the fighting - bravery, ingenuity, endurance and mateship - came to be celebrated as defining characteristics of Australians' identity.
Frank's letter is part of a wider collection that Bill's uncle George had kept in a closet before his death.
George was too young to serve in World War Two but he did keep documents linked to his brothers' services.
He also had a strong community conscience.
"George lived his entire life on a family farm and was heavily involved in the Kangaroo Flat community," Bill said.
"He was a life member of the Kangaroo Flat footy club and an office bearer. Even now, the grandstand at Dower Park is named after him."
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