Saturday, April 25, 2009
#690 ... ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national public holiday in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries 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 observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga. This image is from the Dawn Parade at the Cenotaph in Wellington ...the north end of Lambton Quay
Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand. This is a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same national day, but making reference to both countries in its name.
The Gallipoli campaign
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 Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. 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 their citizens viewed both their past and their future.
The foundations of Anzac Day
On 30 April 1915, 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 1,200 ft (370 m) 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 commemerated 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 memorials were held on or about 25 April, mainly organised by returned servicemen and school children in cooperation with local authorities.
Anzac Day at Manly, Brisbane, Australia, 1922Anzac Day was gazetted as a public holiday in New Zealand in 1920, through the Anzac Day Act, after lobbying by the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ 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 Australian 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