Anzac Day is commemorated by Australia and New Zealand on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. Anzac Day is also celebrated in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.
When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a Federal Commonwealth for only thirteen years. In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The objective was to capture Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stale-mate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.
Though the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Istanbul and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand troops' actions during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an "Anzac legend" became an important part of the national identity in both countries. This shaped the ways they viewed both their past and their future.
On 30 April1915, when the first news of the landing reached New Zealand, a half-day holiday was declared and impromptu services were held. The following year a public holiday was gazetted on 5 April and services to commemorate were organised by the returned servicemen.
The date, 25 April, was officially named Anzac Day in 1916; in that year it was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia and New Zealand, a march through London, and a sports day for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers in Egypt. The small New Zealand community of Tinui, near Masterton in the Wairarapa was apparently the first place in New Zealand to have an Anzac Day service, when the then vicar led an expedition to place a large wooden cross on the Tinui Taipos (a high large hill/mountain, behind the village) in April 1916 to commemorate the dead. A service was held on the 25th of April of that year. In 2006 the 90th Anniversary of the event was celebrated with a full twenty-one gun salute fired at the service by soldiers from the Waiouru Army Camp.
In London, over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets of the city. A London newspaper headline dubbed them "The Knights of Gallipoli". Marches were held all over Australia in 1916; wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended the Sydney march in convoys of cars, accompanied by nurses. Over 2,000 people attended the service in Rotorua. For the remaining years of the war, Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities. From 1916 onwards, in both Australia and New Zealand, Anzac services were held on or about 25 April, mainly organised by returned servicemen and school children in cooperation with local authorities.
Anzac Day was gazetted as a public holiday in New Zealand in 1920, through the Anzac Day Act, after lobbying by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association, the RSA. In Australia at the 1921 State Premiers' Conference, it was decided that Anzac Day would be observed on 25 April each year. However, it was not observed uniformly in all the States.
During the 1920s, Anzac Day became established as a National Day of Commemoration for the 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who died during the war. The first year in which all the States observed some form of public holiday together on Anzac Day was 1927. By the mid-1930s, all the rituals now associated with the day — dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, sly two-up games — became part of Australian Anzac Day culture. New Zealand commemorations also adopted many of these rituals, with the dawn service being introduced from Australia in 1939.
With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in that war as well and in subsequent years, the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those killed in all the military operations in which the countries have been involved.
Anzac Day was first commemorated at the Australian War Memorial in 1942, but, due to government orders preventing large public gatherings in case of Japanese air attack, it was a small affair and was neither a march nor a memorial service. Anzac Day has been annually commemorated at the Australian War Memorial ever since.
Australians and New Zealanders recognise 25 April as a ceremonial occasion, to reflect on the futility of war, and to remember those who fought and lost their lives for their country. Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, mainly at war memorials in cities and towns across both nations. One of the traditions of Anzac Day is the 'gunfire breakfast' (coffee with rum added) which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies, and recalls the 'breakfast' taken by many soldiers before facing battle. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres.
After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of Anzac Day remembrance during the 1920s.
The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were restricted to veterans only. The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers and the dawn service was for returned soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond.
Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to "stand-to" and two minutes of silence would follow. At the start of this time a lone bugler would play "The Last Post" and then concluded the service with "Reveille". In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.
Typical modern dawn services follow a pattern that is now familiar to generations of Australians, containing the following features: introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, recitation, the playing of "The Last Post", a minute of silence, "Reveille", and the playing of both New Zealand and Australian national anthems. At the Australian War Memorial, following events such as the Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial's Roll of Honour. In Australia sprigs of rosemary are often worn on lapels and in New Zealand poppies have taken on this role .
In Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day commemoration features solemn "Dawn Services", a tradition started in Albany, Western Australia on 25 April 1923 and now held at war memorials around both countries, accompanied by thoughts of those lost at war to the ceremonial sounds of The Last Post on the bugle. The fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen (known as the "Ode of Remembrance") is often recited.
Despite federation being proclaimed in Australia in 1901, many argue the "national identity" of Australia was largely forged during the violent conflict of World War I, and the most iconic event in the war for most Australians was the landing at Gallipoli. Dr. Paul Skrebels of the University of South Australia has noted that Anzac Day has continued to grow in popularity; even the threat of a terrorist attack at the Gallipoli site in 2004 could not deter some 15,000 Australians from making the pilgrimage to Turkey to commemorate the fallen ANZAC troops. Australian Postage Stamps The Australian Post Office has issued stamps over the years to commemorate Anzac Day, the first being in 1935 for the 20th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
The full list of issued stamps is as follows:
1935 20th Anniversary (2 values) 2d Red and 1/- Black featuring the London Cenotaph.
1965 50th Anniversary (3 values) 5d Khaki, 8d Blue and 2/3 Maroon featuring Simpson and his donkey.
1990 75th Anniversary (5 values) 41¢ x 2, 65¢, $1, & $1.10 all featuring various ANZAC themes.
In 1955 the then current 3½d Purple Nursing commemorative stamp was privately overprinted with the words "ANZAC 1915-1955 40 YEARS LEST WE FORGET" and a value ranging from 1d to £1 was also added which was the fundraising amount in addition to the legal cost of stamp of which the denomination was 3½d. Eight values were issued and were intended to raise funds for the ANZAC celebrations. It is believed these stamps were authorized by the secretary of a leading Melbourne RSL club. Australian Football
During many wars, Australian rules football matches have been played overseas in places like northern Africa and Vietnam as a celebration of Australian culture and as a bonding exercise between soldiers. In 1975 the VFL/AFL first celebrated Anzac Day and the ANZAC spirit with a match of Australian rules football between Essendon and Carlton in a once-off match in front of a large crowd of 77,770 at VFL Park, Waverley, with Essendon coming out winners.
The modern day tradition began in 1995 and is played every year between traditional AFL rivals Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG. This annual blockbuster is often considered the biggest match of the AFL season outside of the finals, sometimes drawing bigger crowds than all but the Grand Final, and often selling out in advance; a record crowd of 94,825 people attended the inaugural match in 1995. The ANZAC Medal is awarded to the player in the match who best exemplifies the ANZAC Spirit - skill, courage, self-sacrifice, teamwork and fair play. Rugby league Beginning in 1997, the ANZAC Test, a rugby league test match has commemorated Anzac Day, though it is typically played a week prior to Anzac Day. The match is always played between the Australian and New Zealand national teams, and has drawn attendances between 20,000-45,000 in the past.
Domestically, matches have played on Anzac Day since 1926 (with occasional exceptions). Since 2002, the National Rugby League (NRL) have followed the lead of the Australian Football League, hosting a match between traditional rivals St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters each year to commemorate Anzac Day in the Club ANZAC Game.
New Zealand's Commemoration of Anzac Day is similar, though on several occasions the day has become an opportunity for some groups for political protest. In 1967, two members of the left-wing Progressive Youth Movement in Christchurch staged a minor protest at the Anzac Day Ceremony, laying a wreath protesting against the Vietnam War. They were subsequently convicted of disorderly conduct, but that was not the last time that the parade was used as a vehicle for protest. In 1978, a women's group laid a wreath dedicated to all the women raped and killed during war, and movements for feminism, gay rights, and peace used the occasion to draw attention to their respective causes at various times during the 1980s.
The number of New Zealanders attending Anzac Day events in New Zealand, and at Gallipoli, is increasing. For some younger people, the sombre focus of the day receives less emphasis than do the more celebratory aspects of a national holiday. For most, though, the day is an occasion on which to formally pay tribute and to remember.
Dawn Parades and other memorials Nationwide are typically attended by the New Zealand Defence Force, the New Zealand Cadet Forces, members of the New Zealand Police, New Zealand Fire Service, Order of St John Ambulance Service (Youth and Adult Volunteers) as well as Scouting New Zealand, GirlGuiding New Zealand and other uniformed community service groups.
Anzac Day now promotes a sense of unity, perhaps more effectively than any other day on the National calendar. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can nevertheless share a genuine sorrow at the loss of so many lives in war.
Paper poppies are widely distributed by the Returned Services Association and worn as symbols of remembrance. This tradition follows that of the wearing of poppies on Remembrance Sunday in other Commonwealth countries.
The day is a half-day holiday in New Zealand, as per the Anzac Day Act 1966.
Anzac Day has also been marked by protests against contemporary wars; for instance, protests against the Vietnam War were common Anzac Day occurrences during the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, feminists used the annual Anzac Day march to protest against male violence in war and were banned from marching. More recently protest groups have expressed concern about New Zealands involvement in 18 United Nations missions including Afghanistan, Solomon Islands and East Timor.
Following Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, interest in Anzac Day reached its lowest point. On 26 April 1975, The Australian newspaper covered the passing of Anzac Day in a single story. Anzac Day now draws record crowds, with an increasing number of those attending being young Australians, many of whom now attend ceremonies swathed in Australian flags, wearing green and gold T-shirts and beanies and with Australian flag tattoos imprinted on their skin. This has been seen as a reflection of younger generations of Australians wanting to honour the sacrifices made by the previous generations. However, critics contend that this revived interest in Anzac day is a manifestation of the success by former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, in encouraging a greater feeling of national pride involving an uncritical and self-serving embrace of the Anzac legend. Although the Anzac revival was well under way before Howard came to office, the Prime Minister encouraged this phenomenon through his willingness to talk up the Anzac tradition and its importance in contemporary Australia.
Other critics have suggested that the revival in public interest in Anzac day amongst the young is problematised by the fact that these younger Australians have not themselves experienced war. Other sections of the community are concerned that the increasing participation of the young in Anzac Day events has injected a carnival element into what is traditionally a solemn occasion. This was highlighted by a rock concert-style performance at Anzac Cove in 2005 where people drank and slept between headstones. After the event the site was left strewn with rubbish.
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