Anzac Day

Tomorrow is a very special day for Australians – Anzac Day.

Each year on the 25th of April  a national day of remembrance is observed for those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

So what is the meaning of ANZAC — Why is it so special for Australians?

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and refers to the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli during World War one.   When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a Federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world and especially to the United Kingdom as Australia is part of the Commonwealth.

A year later, in 1915, Australian  and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula to open the Black Sea to  the Allied navies.  Gallipoli is in modern day Turkey, but back then it was the Ottoman Empire.

The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on the 25th April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army. The campaign dragged on for eight months and at the end of the year, the Allied forces were evacuated.  The casualty count included nearly 9000 Australian soldiers,  3000 from NZ and 21,000 from the United Kingdom.

The Gallipoli campaign failed  to achieve its military objectives but the brave actions of the Australian and New Zealand troops created the Anzac legend which is now an important part of our national identity.

Anzac Day became established as a National Day of Commemoration in the 1920s. After World War 2, Anzac Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in that war. A  series of Anzac Day rituals have been established/

1. Dawn service. Commemorative services are held at dawn which is the time of the original landing at Gallipoli. The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in Martin Place in 1927 and intended for veterans to remember their fallen comrades. The Sydney Cenotaph is one of the oldest war monuments in the city. Written on the southern side are the words “To Our Glorious Dead” and on the northern side is written –  “Lest we forget”. There are two statues of soldiers at either end of the cenotaph.

Services will he held in cities and towns across Australia tomorrow. The service in the city of Sydney will be held at 4.30am.  In 1990 on  the 75 th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, our prime minister Bob Hawke and most of the surviving veterans travelled to Turkey for a special Dawn service at Gallipoli.

2. Rosemary. Part of the Anzac tradition is to wear a sprig of rosemary as a symbol of remembrance. Rosemary is often handed out at the services by Legacy and the Returned Soldiers League. Rosemary has particular significance for Australians, as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.

3. Laying of wreathes – Flowers have traditionally been laid on graves and memorials in memory of the dead. Laurel is also a commemorative symbol and woven into a wreath,  was used by the ancient Romans to crown victors and the brave as a mark of honour.  You will see many wreathes lain on memorial tomorrow often with a ribbon. In recent years, the poppy, strongly associated with Remembrance Day (11 November), has also become popular in wreaths on ANZAC Day.

4. Anzac Marches are held around the country with ex-serviceman and service women as well as descendants of the original Gallipoli veterans often joining these marches.  The march in the city tomorrow  starts at 9.30am.

5. Poem. In most ceremonies of remembrance there is a reading of an appropriate poem. A popular poem is by Laurence Binyon  titled “For the fallen” first published in the London Times in 1914 .Here are the most well known lines from this poem.

They shall grow not old, as we who  are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

More Information


Ode to the fallen:

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