The Shrine of Remembrance is again hosting the ANZAC Day Dawn Service this year, providing a timely opportunity to revisit the story behind the centerpiece of our Galleries of Remembrance project – the Devanha Lifeboat.
The SS Devanha’s Lifeboat No.5 is one of only two surviving craft that landed ANZAC troops on the beach at Gallipoli 106 years ago on April 25, 1915.
During the First World War, the P&O liner SS Devanha was requisitioned to serve as a troop transport at Gallipoli with her lifeboats playing a critical role in the landings.
Crowded with 36 soldiers and their gear, Lifeboat No.5 was rowed to shore just before dawn to land in the wrong place at Anzac Cove, directly under Turkish machine gun fire. The mistake proved costly and more than 2,000 Anzacs died on the first day alone.
As the day wore on Lifeboat No.5 began carrying the wounded back to the Devanha where they were treated before evacuation to Egypt.
After the war the SS Devanha resumed commercial service until a passenger in 1919 noticed connection with Gallipoli and P&O donated the lifeboat to the Australia War Memorial (AWM). In 2014 the AWM loaned Lifeboat No.5 to the Shrine of Remembrance for the new Galleries of Remembrance exhibition.
A hidden tunnel (known colloquially as the Bat Cave) was specially constructed in the grass embankment near the Legacy forecourt install the lifeboat into the Shrine under croft.
Now after more than a century, Lifeboat No.5 is one of the last remaining artefacts linking back to the Gallipoli landings and the birth of the ANZAC tradition.