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.
WHY IS ANZAC DAY SO SPECIAL?
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.
Anzac Day Activities
These activities have been adapted from a number of different resources:
KEY FACTS & INFORMATION
- 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.