Anzac Day is a solemn holiday jointly shared by Australia and New Zealand.
Anzac is short for “Australian (and) New Zealand Army Corps.” There are military parades and remembrance ceremonies and a minute’s silence.
It commemorates 25 April 1915, during World War One (1914-1918), when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at Gallipoli in Turkey.
Gallipoli is the name of the area; there is no town of that name. The beach is now known as Anzac Cove.
At the time, Turkey was attacking Russia. The idea of a landing in Turkey was to take the pressure off Russia by giving the Turks some action on their own soil.
About 20,000 soldiers all together were landed; they were all volunteers, not conscripts.
The landing went wrong. It was supposed to be at a flat beach, but instead happened on a beach 1 mile away, hemmed in with cliffs from which the soldiers were easy pickings for the enemy fire from above.
The defence was led by Mustafa Kemal, who would later become the leader of Turkey and modernize it. The situation resulted in a stalemate for 8 months, during which about 8,000 of the Anzac troops were killed. The whole attempt was a failure; thousands of soldiers on both sides killed, with no gain to show for it for the British Empire’s forces. Some British politicians had to resign over it.
News of the catastrophic landing became public in Australia and New Zealand 5 days later, on 30 April.
By the following year, 1916, a half-day holiday was declared, both as a memorial and to drum up war-effort support. In London that year, a service was held at Westminster Abbey for Australian and New Zealand troops. In 1921, it was declared a public holiday in New Zealand. Australia started holding dawn services in 1923; New Zealand didn’t start dawn services until 1939.
Many Australians still regard Anzac Day as a more important national holiday than Australia Day. In New Zealand, it is also now acquiring more emphasis as a patriotic celebration day than as one of mourning.
The day is also a public holiday in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.
A man named Alec Campbell was the last known living Gallipoli veteran. He died in May 2002.
Leading up to Anzac Day, Anzac Biscuits are made and sold to raise money for veterans in general.
Literature & Lore
For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon
They shall grow not old,
As we that 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.
A tribute to the memory of the ANZACs by M. Kemal Atatürk, 1934
(Founder of the Turkish Republic in 1923)
THE ANZAC MEMORIAL
Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side,
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries…
Wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land, they have
Become our sons as well.