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Identity Forged by War
World War I (1914-1918), much more than federation itself, began the transformation of Australian life from that of six colonies to a united state aware of its new identity. Responding to the allied call for troops, Australia sent more than 330,000 volunteers, who took part in some of the bloodiest battles. Suffering a casualty rate higher than that of many other participants, Australia became increasingly conscious of its contribution to the war effort. At Gallipoli (now Gelibolu), an Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) tried in vain to launch a drive on the Turkish forces in the Dardanelles. The date of the fateful landing, April 25, 1915, became equated with Australia's coming of age, and as Anzac Day it has remained the country's most significant day of public homage.
In 1915 William M. (“Billy”) Hughes became prime minister and leader of the Labor Party. Representing Australia at councils in London, Hughes personified Australian energies. When he failed to carry the electorate in two attempts to supplement volunteers with conscripted men, Hughes remained in power by forming the Nationalist Party, much to the annoyance of his Labor colleagues. He attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, acquiring German New Guinea as a mandated territory and establishing Australia's right to enter the League of Nations. The powers designated to the federal government in the constitution proved sufficient to allow a strong central government.