Anzac Day

Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national commemorative occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

The day commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”.

This year is different. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional Torquay Dawn Service, and veterans’ march will not take place.

The Torquay RSL has advised that the flags at Point Danger will be lowered to half-mast on ANZAC Day. People and organisations are welcome to place wreaths or poppies on the memorials, but the Coronavirus rules on gatherings must be adhered to – no bunching together.

We are encouraged to pay our respects at dawn on Anzac Day by standing in our driveway with a lighted candle. At the same time, we remember all who have died for Australia over the many years, and for those who continue to serve Australia in overseas conflicts.


25 April marks the landings of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli in 1915. This campaign was a complete military disaster for the Anzacs as part of the Allied force. By the time of their retreat in December 1915, 44,000 Allied soldiers had died, including more than 8700 Australians and 2779 New Zealanders. The victory also came at a high price for the Ottoman Empire, which lost 87,000 men repelling the invasion. 

On both sides of the Tasman we mark Anzac Day as a heroic defeat, a baptism of fire for both nations. This has overshadowed the loss of 46,000 Australian deaths on the Western front with a further 124,000 were wounded (sometimes multiple times) and as a result, these men endured years of ill health, disfigurement or disability.

Australian troops were sent to be part of an Imperial army. Most Australians believed that they were a part of the British Empire and wanted to do all they could to protect it. Some believed the Great War was a coming of age for Australia, it shaped our sense of identity as a nation. The war highlighted Australian attributes of mateship, of bravery, tenacity, ingenuity and a tendency to have contempt for the British class system. For those who lost loved ones these were matters of little significance, and for them the day remains one of commemoration. For Australia, from a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. This equates to half the men aged between 20 and 40 being killed or wounded.

Across the Surf Coast Shire 617 men and women served overseas from the 700 enlistments. One hundred thirty-two of these men died as a result of the war.



  • General Birdwood created the term ANZAC which an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps because saying and writing the full title was too long.
  • On 25 April 1915, the Anzac soldiers landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula (now known as Anzac Cove) as the start of an Allied campaign. For both countries, it was the first major military action. The objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire through the Dardanelles. They were an ally of Germany.
  • The battle lasted eight months with around 8,709 Australian soldiers and 2,721 from New Zealand losing their lives.
  • The Battle of Gallipoli, sometimes referred to as the Dardanelles Campaign was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allies to control the sea route from Europe to Russia.
  • Lack of intelligence and knowledge of the Turkish territory contributed to the failure of the campaign. By the end of December 1915, the allied forces had withdrawn from the peninsula after experiencing 250,000 casualties including 46,000 deaths.
  • The first Anzac Day commemoration was held in 1916. Five years later, Queensland passed the Anzac Day Act which made the observance a public holiday. By 1927 every state observed some form of public holiday on Anzac Day.
  • By mid-1930s, rituals such as dawn vigils, memorial services and marches became part of Anzac Day.
  • As part of Anzac Day, a Dawn Service at is usually held. It was first observed at Sydney’s Cenotaph in 1928 wherein veterans assemble to observe two minutes of silence. Other traditions have developed over time such as the Gunfire breakfast, wearing of medals and rosemary as symbols of remembrance, and laying a wreath of flowers on graves or memorials in memory of the dead. Before light, soldiers in WW1 would have their meal and coffee, which was topped up with a bit of rum to calm their nerves. 
    Go to our Puzzles & Activities section on this page to find out how you can make some of these traditions.
  • Speeches and poems composed to commemorate the day are also read out. Among them is a verse, known as The Ode from the 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.

  • At the 20th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landing Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Ataturk, the inaugural Turkish President gave a moving speech which he had inscribed on a monument. Mustafa Kemal was an outstanding front-line commander noted for successfully holding off the Allied forces at Chunuk Bair. The inscription on the plaque above Anzac Cove reads: 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 faraway 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.
  • For both Anzac and Remembrance days, paper poppies have been adopted across the commonwealth countries as a symbol of remembrance. They are worn by people and are often in wreaths laid at memorials. Red poppies were among the first plants to bloom in the battlefields of northern France and Flanders (north Belgium) during the First World War. Some folktales are told about the blood of fallen soldiers making the flowers so red.
  • Anzac Day is not just about commemoration and remembering those who have fought in wars. It is often referred to as the day that marked the courage and bravery of both nations during the First World War. It showed the world that despite being young nations. Federation in Australia was inaugurated in 1901; they were of equal honour.

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War has played a defining role in shaping our nation since we first sent troops overseas to South Africa in 1899. Since the start of World War One many Australians have reflected on the impact of this war on their families or on our nation. We have always believed that it has been important to commemorate this war and reflect on all the other conflicts that have followed. In Torquay, Anzac Day events have grown to such a degree that across Victoria more people attend the Dawn Service at Point Danger than any other event outside the Melbourne service.

Acknowledging those who had served or died was an important way for communities to make sense of the human cost of war. One common expression of this collective grief lay in the building of memorials. Many of the Shire’s war memorials or honour boards were built after the First World war. Typically, they reflect our historic ties with Britain with references to fighting for ‘King and Country’ or ‘King and Empire’. Others stress the notion of fighting for some sort of ‘greater good’ and how many had willingly ‘laid down their lives’. In some of the towns in the Shire there are memorials which are more practical such as memorial halls, a grandstand or Avenues of Honour. Often in a town the Second World War memorials tend to be added to or similar to those of World War One.

Many memorials have implored us not to forget the fallen through inscriptions such as ‘their names liveth for evermore’. Our First World War veterans are long gone and there are fewer Second World War veterans to be seen at the various public commemorations such as Anzac Day. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the number attending dawn parades has increased in recent years. This suggests that remembrance remains important to Australians.

Maybe our war dead are not forgotten. But it is worth considering to what extent there is an acknowledgement of our collective loss as opposed to a commemoration of the individual. Who do we have in mind when we acknowledge the sacrifice?

For those with a clear personal or family connection with war, remembrance may be first and foremost a private matter. Others may have no association with conflict at all or at least no personal connection with what we might refer to as ‘our’ national experience of war. They may struggle to see the relevance of our memorials and rituals associated with remembrance. They may reject such notions as shared grief or collective loss. It is worth noting that just under 30% of Australians were not born here. Many new settlers may have a totally different experience of many of the conflicts we commemorate. Their experience of war may be more immediate, and it may be something that has shaped them personally in a way other Australians may not relate to.

A century on from the First World War, Australia is a vastly different country in terms of its ethnic make-up and world view. How we commemorate is largely a tradition imposed in a different era. The National War Memorial reflects the values and beliefs of a society that was decidedly British and Christian in its outlook.


  1. On a piece of paper jot down everything you know in relation to Anzac Day. These can be words, dates or images – there is no right or wrong response.
  2. Use these to write a couple of sentences about Anzac Day. One way to help focus you thinking is to imagine that you are talking to someone from another part of the world who knows absolutely nothing about this day. It might be useful to refer to the AWM notes on Anzac Day.


Watch the clip What is Anzac Day?



Have you attended a Dawn Service? Have you been to or participated in any other Anzac Day commemoration, for example, wreath-laying?

If you have attended Anzac Day ceremonies, describe the event: the people, sounds, what it felt like, etc. Use dot points to provide your description.

Listen to the recording of this 2019 dawn ceremony recorded at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Jot down a list of words that represent your thoughts.

The Last Post is a bugle call used at military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who have fallen in war. It was originally a bugle call used in British Army camps to signal the end of the day. It has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolising that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that he or she can rest in peace.  THE LAST POST

The meaning of Anzac Day

  1. What do you understand by the word ‘commemorate’?
  2. What do you think Anzac Day commemorates?
  3. What do you think is the meaning of the last verse of the 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.

  1. What are some of the symbols used to represent Anzac Day?
  2. What do these symbols represent?
  3. Is Anzac Day nothing more than a holiday to many Australians? Explain your answer.
  4. How has Anzac Day been used to promote a sense of Australia’s identity as a nation?
  5. What are the things that make us stand tall as a nation today?
  6. In your opinion, should Anzac Day be abolished in its current format? Explain your answer.


The Dawn Service

Imagine you are an exchange student visiting from Switzerland. Your host family has taken you to an Anzac Day Dawn Service at their local war memorial. In a letter back home to your family outline to them what the purpose of the day is and why the ceremony takes place at dawn. Describe some of the sights and sounds you experienced at the service and your impressions of it.


You may have a family connection with the Anzac story and Australia’s participation in wars in general.

One hundred thirty-five men from the Surf Coast Shire landed on Gallipoli with 24 of those men landing on the first day. Robert McLauchlan Wilson (Winchelsea), Leslie Charles Bailey (Torquay) and William Jacob Fuller (Connewarre) were killed on the first day. Others who died at Gallipoli can be found at

Reflect on your own family.

  • Do you have any family who has served or are serving in the armed forces?
  • Did any of your relatives see service at Gallipoli? If so, what does your family know about their experiences?
  • For those family members who fought, what do you know about their attitudes or feelings about their wartime experiences? Did they talk openly about the war?
  • Are there any family photos or mementoes associated with family members’ wartime experiences? Attach copies or photos of them to these pages.


After the Torquay RSL was formed in 1947 the small band of Ex-Servicemen established a cairn at Point Danger. The cairn has plaques remembering many wars and also remembering Torquay hosting the Light Horse Camp at Torquay in 1940.

  • Visit the Torquay RSL page
    • What does RSL stand for?
    • Where was the original home of the Torquay RSL?
    • What work do they do?
    • Over the years the Torquay Anzac Day service at Point Danger has grown to be the largest in Victoria outside of Melbourne’s Dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance. How many came to the Torquay Anzac Day Dawn service in 2015? 

When Anzac Drive at Point Danger was redeveloped the cairn was to be replaced by a more modern monument.

Visit the page about the Point Danger Memorial

  • Look at the aerial images of Point Danger. Compare and contrast the changes can you see that were made at Point Danger by completing these sentences.
    • _______________ and _______________ have many differences. The most important difference is ______________________________. Another difference is ______________________________. Finally, ______________________________.
    • _______________ and _______________ are similar in many ways. For example, _________________________. Furthermore, they both _________________________. A final similarity is _________________________
  • There was protest by the Torquay RSL. Look at the image of Joe Walker with his banner after the removal of the old cairn. What is he asking for? What do you think 1948 means? What does 2006 at the bottom mean?
  • In dot points list all the arguments you think Joe Walker may have used to persuade the Great Ocean Road Coastal Committee to change their mind.
  • Look at the photos of Point Danger today, was he successful?
  • The old cairn had a number of significant plaques on it.
  • Write a paragraph on the significance of each of these plaques on the old cairn?


Nearly every town across the Surf Coast Shire there is some form of memorial to remember those who served overseas during World War One. Some of the towns have memorials to World War Two and few have memorials for other conflicts that Australia had been involved in.

Every community that sent and lost people in the war commemorated. There was an individual sacrifice but also the impact on their community as a whole. Sacrifice on this scale saw an enormous outpouring of grief from parents, lovers, siblings and friends. The war allowed Australia to stand tall on the world stage and the commemoration of this also gave every community a chance to express their pride and their sorrow.

Go to for images of World War One memorials in our area. You will also find a history of those memorials.

Choose two towns from the Shire

  • What is the style of their memorial?
  • Is there any mention of how it was paid for?
  • What are the inscriptions? Are there any references to God, ‘King and Country’ or Empire?
  • Look at the names; what stands out?
  • Describe how we would build a memorial today.

Anzac Day (and beyond) fatalities

Of the twenty-one men who died at Gallipoli, only nine have been identified and buried in cemeteries. The others have no known grave and are therefore commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial to the missing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. One is at the Helles Memorial.


Visit the Commonwealth Graves Commission website

Find a cemetery where a Suf Coast soldier is buried or where there is a memorial. You can get this information by reading the profiles of the men and women who served at

  • Draw a map of the cemetery.
  • Identify the location of three memorial or burial sites at that cemetery.
  • How many cemeteries are there in Gallipoli?
  • Who maintains these cemeteries?
  • Why is it important that these memorials and graves are maintained?
  • What is the significance of Gallipoli as a place of pilgrimage for many young Australians when travelling overseas?
  • Written for the 20th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, this memorial is special. Why?  kemal-ataturk-gallipoli-monument