Anzac Day – a short and important history

ANZAC Day, as we are all aware, is a national day of remembrance in both 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.

But, are you aware that Anzac Day is also observed in many other countries from Canada, the United Kingdom, Malta, France, Belgium, USA and other destinations too numerous to list in full.

How did it begin?

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign during the First World War in 1915.

The ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman (Turkish) Army, who were an ally of Germany during World War One.

The campaign to capture Gallipoli quickly became a stalemate and 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. The ANZAC casualties by the time of the evacuation totaled 11,430; 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand.

The date 25 April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916, it was commemorated by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia and New Zealand, as well as a march through London involving Australian and New Zealand troops.

Anzac Day was gazetted as a public holiday in New Zealand in 1920. 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 until 1927 that all the Australian states observed the public holiday together on Anzac Day.

All Anzac Day commemorations feature a solemn “Dawn Service” or “Dawn March”, a tradition which started in Albany Western Australia on ANZAC day in 1923. These commemorations are accompanied by the ceremonial sounds of the Last Post on the bugle and the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen” is recited.

With the coming and the ending of the Second World War and conflicts since that time, Anzac Day has become what we know today; a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in all conflicts.

So, on the 25th of April if you are unable to attend the dawn service, please take the time to stop, remember and imagine the horrors and hardship that soldiers endured in the service of their countries, never questioning the futility of the cause or their role and the death, pain and fear it would bring to them.

Lest We Forget.

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