The Anzacs presents a tumultuous vision of battle, of the Anzac troops and their horses in action, with the figure in front holding his head in anguish after he has been shot. It captures one moment in a battle, when all the humans and animals are straining every muscle in their effort to advance against the enemy and defend themselves from attack.
Lambert modelled this sculpture from his recollection of men and horses he had known in Palestine. The rearing horse at the back of the group typified the best of the Australian troop horses and the horse with its nose touching the ground was Lambert’s memory portrait of a horse that he had ridden when he was with the Light Horse. The soldier on the left side front in full uniform with a rifle in his hand represented a typical Light Horseman who has been hit and whose muscles are suddenly giving way, the soldier in the centre was a typical New Zealander firing steadily at the enemy, and the figure in the front who has been shot represented a serviceman’s sacrifice for his country, with his naked torso suggesting that his ‘worldly troubles are over’ (ML MSS 97/8, item 7).
Lambert constructed the sculpture on a pyramidal structure, with the lines curving forward and upward, over and downward, like waves, to enhance the sense of motion and energy in the work.
As Lambert’s friend George Pitt-Rivers commented, the sculpture demonstrates the importance of living life to the fullest and most dangerously ‘concentrating every muscle of the body and every thought upon one absorbing object as long as life lasts’. It captures the chaos and horror of battle, of men meeting death, because it ‘shrinks from no detail of physiological reality’, shows ‘every straining sinew and flexed limb’ of the men and represents well-bred horses ‘quivering with pain’ (Lambert 1924, pp.36–7).
Lambert made several pencil studies in his sketchbooks for this group, including drawings for the front figure and for the falling figure, as well as Study for Desert Mounted Corps memorial 1926 (cat.104).