Monday, April 24, 2023



Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served".


It is observed on 25 April each year, the anniversary of the day when the Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli Peninsula to battle the Turkish in 1915. It was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918).

Australian light horseman using a periscope rifle, Gallipoli, 1915


Unlike many other celebrations and special days – for example, Australia Day, Labour Day - this has not become JAH, Just Another Holiday. It remains respected, observed and honoured. Since the late 1980s and especially the 1990s, interest in and attendance at Anzac Day has grown. An increasing number of attendees have been young Australians, perceived by some as a reflection of the desire of younger generations of Australians to honour the sacrifices made by the previous generations.


ANZAC, an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, is protected under Australian law. This means that the word cannot be misused, and permission to use it must come from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

The acronym was first written as “A & NZ Army Corps”. However, clerks in the corps headquarters soon shortened it to ANZAC as a convenient telegraphic code name for addressing telegram messages.

One of the earliest appearances of “Anzac” as a word in an official document was an appendix to the 1st Australian Division War Diary, dated 24 April 1915:


After the Australians and New Zealanders had landed on Gallipoli General Sir William R. Birdwood was asked to suggest a name for the beach where the landing took place. According to his introduction in The Anzac book (1916), Birdwood “asked that this might be recorded as ‘Anzac Cove’ - a name which the bravery of our men has now made historical, while it remains a geographical landmark for all time”. The area of the landing was often simply referred to as “Anzac”.

Soon after, “Anzac” was used to refer to the men themselves. At first an Anzac was a man who was at the landing and who fought on Gallipoli. Later it was used for any Australian or New Zealand soldier of the First World War. After Gallipoli, men who had served there wore a brass “A” on their colour patch to distinguish themselves as veterans of the campaign.


All of the Anzacs were volunteers. More than 400,000 men chose to enlist, which at the time was almost 40% of the male population between 18 and 44 years old.


The word generated many slang terms in the first Australian Imperial Force. W.H. Downing’s Digger dialects included:

Anzac button: a nail used in place of a trouser button

Anzac soup: shell-hole water polluted by a corpse

Anzac stew: an urn of hot water and one bacon rind

Anzac wafer: a hard biscuit supplied to the AIF in place of bread.


On 10 January 1916, Canon David John Garland was appointed the honorary secretary of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland (ADCCQ) at a public meeting which endorsed 25 April as the date to be promoted as "Anzac Day" in 1916 and ever after. Queensland Premier T.J. Ryan urged the other Australian states to enact a similar parade, and soon the date became a national day of reflection.

Devoted to the cause of a non-denominational commemoration that could be attended by the whole of Australian society, Garland worked amicably across all denominational divides, creating the framework for Anzac Day commemorative services.

Garland is specifically credited with initiating the Anzac Day march, the wreath-laying ceremonies at memorials and the special church services, the two minutes silence, and the luncheon for returned soldiers. Garland intended the silence to be used in lieu of a prayer to allow the Anzac Day service to be universally attended, allowing attendees to make a silent prayer or remembrance in accordance with their own beliefs. He particularly feared that the universality of the ceremony would fall victim to religious sectarian disputes.

Canon David John Garland


Anzac Day was officially named so in 1916, but there was no dawn service performed on Anzac Day until 1923.

Services for Anzac Day are held at dawn because in a battle setting dawn is the best time to attack the enemy, the soldiers being ready to go as soon as it was light and the enemy being caught by surprise.

The sunrise ceremony known as the Dawn Service honours the pre-dawn landing at Gallipoli. The ceremony includes traditions such as the Last Post (a military bugle call, signifying the end of the day’s activities), the laying of wreaths, and a reading of the Ode of Remembrance.


Anzac Day was not recognised as a public holiday in Australia or New Zealand until 1921. Even when it was decreed a public holiday in Australia, not all states acknowledged it.

It is celebrated on the day on which it falls.


The location where the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli was renamed to Anzac Cove.

Gallipoli is not the name of a town, rather it is the name of an area.  When people travel to the Gallipoli area they usually stay in nearby towns to attend the dawn service, like the town of Ecubeat.

The landing at Anzac, April 25, 1915, by Charles Dixon.

Anzac Cove today


The Anzac troops who landed at Gallipoli had only trained for four months in Egypt. The Anzac landing was a nightmare, the landing beach was at the bottom of a steep hill, meaning Anzacs had to clamber up the hill under heavy Turkish fire. What many don’t know is that this landing was a mistake. They Anzacs had actually landed on the wrong beach.

Australian gunners at Anzac


Despite only being in the Gallipoli area for 8 months, some 11,000 Australians died there and over 23,500 were wounded.

Graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula, July 1915


The traditional Anzac biscuit is usually a simple mixture of flour, oats, golden syrup, dessicated coconut, sugar, butter and bicarbonate of soda. The original recipe, like most historical recipes, is a little harder to pin down. The first recorded recipe for ‘Anzac biscuits’ is completely different to modern Anzacs, though other very similar recipes existed under names like “rolled oat biscuits” and “soldier’s biscuits” in cookbooks during the early 1900s.

It’s a popular myth that they’re called Anzac biscuits because they were shipped to the Anzac soldiers during the war. However, while it’s true that they travel excellently and don’t contain any ingredients that easily spoil, the name “Anzac biscuits” didn’t meet up with these buttery, oaty cookies until the 1920s. In reality, the biscuits were more often made at home to sell for fundraising, or to serve at fetes and other events held to raise money for the war effort, and it’s this connection between the biscuits and the war that led to the use of the name “Anzacs”.

Anzac biscuits are an explicit exemption to an Australian ban on commercial goods that use the term "Anzac", so long as they are sold as biscuits and not cookies.


Rosemary is an ancient symbol of fidelity and remembrance. The aromatic herb grows wild on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey where the original Anzacs served in World War I. Australians traditionally wear sprigs of rosemary as a symbol of remembrance on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.


The poppy is also worn on both ANZAC day and Remembrance Day as a reminder of soldiers lost in battle and bloodshed. This symbol comes from John McCraw’s WWI poem entitled “In Flanders Fields”, but has been taken on as a reminder of the loss of veterans and soldiers in wars and after.

Wall of remembrance at the Australian War memorial. Canberra.. Poppies placed next to the names of the dead, by friends and relatives.


The ‘Last Post’, played on the bugle, is a part of funeral and memorial services for veterans and soldiers as a final farewell. It is traditionally played to signal the ending of the day, and in a funeral or memorial symbolises that the duties of the dead have now finished and they are free to rest in peace.


Despite not being legally allowed to serve, many Aboriginal Australians also volunteered as Anzacs. They had to lie about their race in order to enlist, but their involvement is still rarely recognised. Over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in World War I (1914-1918) and around 70 fought at Gallipoli. At least 3000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander people served in World War II (1939-1945)

Private Walter Christopher George Saunders served during World War I.

It is not known exactly how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women served during wartime because there was no indigenous identification process in the Defence Force until the 1990s. Australian War Memorial records and photographs show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers served in every battle since the 1901 federation, from the Boer War to current conflicts.

While the Defence Force provided mostly equal conditions for all personnel during WWI, indigenous diggers arrived home to find the treatment was short lived. In the face of widespread and ingrained racism, many returned to Australia believing their military ­service would improve their status in the eyes of the authorities. Instead, they found they were not allowed into RSL clubs or offered assistance by Legacy. Others ended their days as “inmates” in asylums including those at Cherbourg and Charters Towers, Queensland. Some were never given a proper service grave or do not have their names on official cenotaphs.


Although the Anzacs fought at Gallipoli for only 8 months, and suffered heavy losses, that time is considered to have defined Australia’s spirit as a nation. The story of the Anzacs is that of the underdog, persevering courageously even in the face of despair. It has contributed to what Australia is today and remains an occasion to remember and honour those who have served, given their all and those who still serve.

Lest we forget

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