Friday, April 24, 2009

Beginnings of ANZAC Day

Information supplied by Wikepedia


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.

The pride they took in that name endures to this day, and Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand.

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 to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies.

The plan 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 defenders.

 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 they viewed both their past and their future.

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 tiny 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 1200ft 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 celebrated 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 services were held on or about 25 April, mainly organised by returned servicemen and school children in cooperation with local authorities.

Anzac Day was gazetted as a public holiday in New Zealand in 1920, through the Anzac Day Act, after lobbying by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' 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.

One of the traditions of Anzac Day is the 'gunfire breakfast' (coffee with rum added), which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies.

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 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.

With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in that war as well and in subsequent years, the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those killed in all the military operations in which the countries have been involved.

Anzac Day was first commemorated at the Australian War Memorial in 1942, but due to government orders preventing large public gatherings in case of Japanese air attack; it was a small affair and was neither a march nor a memorial service.

Anzac Day has been annually commemorated at the Australian War Memorial ever since.

Australians and New Zealanders recognise 25 April as a ceremonial occasion. Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, across both nations.

Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centers.

 Commemorative ceremonies are held at war memorials around both countries.

 It is a day when Australians and New Zealanders reflect on war.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn.

With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of Anzac Day remembrance during the 1920s.

The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.

Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were restricted to veterans only.

The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers and the dawn service was for returned soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond.

Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to "stand-to" and two minutes of silence would follow.

At the start of this time a lone bugler would play "The Last Post" and then concluded the service with "Reveille".

In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever.

Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys.

Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.

Each year the commemorations follow a pattern that is familiar to generations of Australians.

A typical Anzac Day service contains the following features: introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, recitation, the playing of "The Last Post", a minute of silence, "Reveille", and the playing of both New Zealand and Australian national anthems.

At the Australian War Memorial, following events such as the Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial's Roll of Honour.

In Australia sprigs of rosemary are often worn on lapels and in New Zealand poppies have taken on this role.


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