Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One.
It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.
Many people outside of Australia and New Zealand may not have heard of Anzac day. Even those who have heard of it may not understand the cultural and historical significance of the day, particularly in Australia, where the events of April 25th, 1915 are often said to have been the real birth of the nation.
14 years earlier, on January 1, 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed from the British Colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and West Australia. World War 1 was the first chance that new Government had to define itself on the international stage.
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, an ally of Germany. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk). What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months
The campaign on April 25th was a particularly deadly one for the Allied toops. After being landed in the wrong location the troops faced heavy fire from Turkish forces who were positioned on the high ground surrounding the cove.
With little to no early support from British forces, the Anzac troops showed great courage and determination to continue on with their task despite the inevitability of the outcome.
The ideals of "mateship"(looking out for your friends) and perseverance, in good-spirits, through the toughest of trials, that were best exemplified throughout the Gallipoli campaign would go on to not only define future Anzac troops but also the Australian and New Zealand nations as a whole.
Key to the Anzac tradition are the Anzac day marches that take place across both countries.
These marches have grown in size, despite the passing of many of the war veterans that they commemorate because of the growing participation of younger generations as representatives of their ancestors.
The fact that younger generations have been allowed to participate has not only served to ensure that the stories of their forebears are remembered but has also been invaluable in introducing these new generations to the idea of family history research - something we should all be pleased to hear.
To finish this post, I will leave you with a key part of Anzac Day commemorations, the reciting of a part of the "Ode of Remembrance" taken from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen".
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.
Lest we forget.
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