Tomorrow Australians, New Zealanders and people around the world will observe ANZAC Day, which broadly commemorates the contribution and suffering of all Australians and New Zealanders who have served and died in the armed forces during World Wars I and II, plus all worldwide conflicts, and peacekeeping operations since then. This year marks the centenary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April 1915. They were fighting to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula to allow the WWI Allies navies access to the Black Sea. However, they met with fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turks.
Most remembrance ceremonies feature a reading of an occassion appropriate poem, which is traditionally the Ode. Laurence Binyon wrote the poem For the Fallen, from which the Ode comes, while sitting on the cliffs in north Cornwall in 1914, as a remembrance of British troops suffering heavy casualties in WWI. The poem has seven stanzas, however it is the fourth which became the League Ode. This was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921.
“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.”
In honour of this national day, following are 20 nuggets of information about ANZAC Day that you may not have known.
- The ANZACs were all volunteers.
- April 25, Anzac Day, was the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.
- 25 April, was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916.
- The first dawn service on an ANZAC Day was in 1923.
- AIF is an abbreviation for Australian Imperial Force.
- There is no town called “Gallipoli”. It is the name of an area. Visitors to Gallipoli usually stay at nearby towns – like Ecubeat.
- ANZAC Day was not a public holiday in New Zealand until 1921. ANZAC Day was not a public holiday in Australia until 1921. However it was not observed uniformly in all the states.
- The Gallipoli Peninsula is very near the famous ancient city of Troy.
- The term ANZAC is protected under Australian law.
- More than 11,000 ANZACs died at Gallipoli and more than 23,500 were wounded.
- Services are held at dawn because in battle, dawn was the best time to attack the enemy.
- Soldiers would wake in the dark so at the first signs of light they were alert and awake.
- The original Anzac biscuit was known as an Anzac wafer or tile and was part of the rations given to the ANZAC soldiers during World War I. They were included instead of bread because they had a much longer shelf life.
- Anzac biscuits were created by wives of soldier’s who wanted to bake healthy goodies for their men. They lacked egg and milk, so kept for a long time and didn’t spoil during transport.
- The Poppy as a symbol comes from Canadian John McCrae’s WWI poem. In Flanders Fields. It was used as a symbol by the Canadians for their Remembrance Day, and has been adapted as a reminder of the loss of all veterans in all wars.
- The wearing of rosemary on ANZAC Day is done as a mark of respect for the men who never returned from Gallipoli, or indeed, later wars. The wearing of it honours the memory of those brave men.
- The ‘Last Post’ is incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell and symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace.
- The men who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula created a legend, adding the word ‘ANZAC’ to our vocabulary and creating the idea of the ANZAC spirit.
- In Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Niue, ANZAC Day is also commemorated to honour their soldiers who participated to the campaign. ANZAC Day is commemorated in France in the towns of Le Quesnoy and Longueval.
- ANZAC Day is commemorated in the village of Harefield in Middlesex just outside of London because of a quirk in history. In 1914, millionaire Sydney expat Charles Billyard-Leake offered his manor home and 250 acres of parkland for injured Australian troops to recoup. It was imagined 50 soldiers in winter, 150 in summer would be catered for. But by the following year and post Gallipoli, it had become a fully-fledged hospital with 1000 beds just for Australian soldiers. More than 50,000 wounded Diggers passed through the home, which became known as Number 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital.
The traditional dawn ANZAC Day service is filled with a sense of reverence and reflection. The time lapse below is from the Canabera service in 2012, however similar services will take place throughout the world to make the sacrifices of the fallen.