Two massive anniversary parties taking place on the international stage in 2015

There are two anniversaries which count in 2015: the centenary of Gallipoli and the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo.

On the international stage, there are two anniversaries which count in 2015. 

The centenary of Gallipoli, obviously. And the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo when Napoleon's ambitions were finally ended by what the Duke of Wellington called "a close run thing".

Strangely, those two battlegrounds - one in Belgium, the other in modern Turkey - are linked by a little-known story. 

On June 18, 1915 the Australians completed the first serviceable pier at Anzac Cove, almost two months after the first Anzacs landed there on April 25.

"Watson's Pier" was a massive achievement under continual fire, and is recognised by "the Waterloo Dinner", an annual event for officers of the Royal Australian Engineers.

But why is it called the Waterloo Dinner?

Lieutenant Stan Watson, after whom the pier was named, was a signals officer but was supervising a party of the 2nd Australian Field Company of the Royal Australian Engineers.

When the much-needed wharf was completed, Watson's superior,   Lieutenant-Colonel CJ Foote, requested permission for a dinner in his dugout to celebrate a major Australian achievement.

Permission was declined by the British high command. But, according to legend, Foote remembered June 18 was also the centenary of Waterloo. 

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So he asked for permission to hold a dinner where his Australian sappers could toast the victory at Waterloo. Permission was immediately granted. Which is why the creation of Watson's Pier is celebrated each year by Royal Australian Engineers with a Waterloo Dinner.

The centenary Waterloo Dinner will be held at Gallipoli, of course.

GALLIPOLI, WW1: April 25, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Anzac landings and the event will be massive. Only the 8000 Australians who won tickets in the national ballot will be allowed to attend the dawn service.

However several companies are offering tours or cruises of Gallipoli throughout 2015. Boronia Battlefield Tours has a 14-day escorted tour from July 29 to coincide with the centenary of the August Offensive when some of the bloodiest and most famous battles took place. Phone 1800 035 350 or see www.boroniabattlefieldtours.com.au.

WESTERN FRONT, WW1: Australians didn't reach the Western Front until 1916, so the biggest commemorations will be in 2016, not 2015 (including the centenary of the Battle of Fromelles). However several companies are offering Anzac Day tours. The Australian War Memorial has a 12-day Anzac Day Tour led by AWM historian Aaron Pegram and organised by Boronia Battlefield Tours.

D-DAY, WW2: Obviously 2014 was the big 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. But several Australian companies are also running D-Day related tours in 2015, including Back-Roads Touring which is offering a four day, three night tour. Phone 1300 100 410 or see www.backroadstouring.com.

PRISONERS OF WAR, WW2: Since 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2, there is much focus on the POWs who endured terrible war crimes in the last months before Japan was defeated in 1945. The Burma Thai Railway Memorial Association has an  11-day, 10 night Anzac Day tour, leaving on April 17. Phone 08 9339 8237 or see www.btrma.org.au.

WATERLOO, 200TH ANNIVERSARY: A spectacular two-day reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo will be held on the actual battlefield on June 19-20, 2015. (See www.waterloo2015.org). Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours has two-day escorted Waterloo Flexi Tours operating throughout 2015, from both Paris and Brussels. Phone 1300 880 340 or see www.battlefields.com.au.  

US CIVIL WAR, 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF LEE'S SURRENDER: The Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865 - sometimes referred to as "the Waterloo of the Confederacy" - was the last major battle of the American Civil War and led to the surrender of Robert E Lee's army on April 9. Reenactments will be held during the early part of 2015.

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