Happy Anzac Day!
ANZAC Day is a very important national event celebrated in the countries of Australia and New Zealand every year on April 25. It is to commemorate the lives offered by the ANZAC or the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It is these two nations’ pride that their citizens carry to this day. For these two proud nations the day commemorates the anniversary of their joint forces’ first significant military action during WWI.
New Zealand and Australia, two sovereign countries had been a dominion of the British Empire for only 13 and 7 years, respectively, in 1914 when the beginnings of World War I started. Forces from New Zealand and Australia were sent in 1915 to seize Constantinople, which today is the region of Istanbul that served as the capital of the empire of the Ottomans, a great associate of the Germans during World War I.
April 25 as Anzac Day
You might wonder why Anzac Day was chosen to be celebrated on April 25, not 24 or 26 or even July 18, the beginning of World War I. Well, history shows us that the Anzacs were chosen to be remembered on the said date because it was that day in 1915 when Australian soldiers and their counterparts in New Zealand set shore on Gallipoli.
The objective was to take Gallipoli as in so doing it would open the 61-kilometer long Dardanelles Strait to the allied navies. The Allied Forces, including the Anzacs, led by Britain and France, landed on Gallipoli on that fateful day, where they immediately faced the fierce backlash of the Ottoman troops. What was believed to be a fool proof plan was foiled by the Ottomans’ quick response, prolonging the battle for eight long months of struggle, slaughter and blood baths.
The Anzacs and other allied troops were withdrawn at the end of 1915 when both parties have lost a great amount of soldiers, properties and money. Although the plan that aimed to overthrow Turkey out of the war had not succeeded, the landing and endurance of the Anzacs and other allied forces would be forever remembered as the [sic] “ANZAC Legend.” It has passively yet greatly helped Australians and New Zealanders to look on both their past and the future with vigor and pride, as their ancestors’ deeds established their nations’ identity, for the Anzacs have carved a memorable and important mark in their histories.
Celebration of Anzac Day in Australia
In Australia, the locals commemorate the day with two forms of services that are done across the country. At dawn on April 25, the veterans, now joined by the younger generation and their families, are joined by a chaplain. The commemorative service embodies the military practice of waking up the soldiers before dawn, for a “stand-to.” It means that by the time dawn has crept in, the soldiers are already awake and alert and their weapons on the ready. The stand-to is followed by a two-minute silence. Afterwards one bugler will play the “Last Post” and at the end of the service, the wake-up call, “Reveille” will be played. In several Australian capital cities today, the Dawn Service became more elaborate, with hymns, readings, rifle volleys and pipers.
Dawn was also the time when the Anzacs and allied troops landed in Gallipoli. In the proceedings of a war, dawn is the best time of any day to commence an attack upon an opposing force. After the First World War, soldiers that have returned to their country seek for the tranquil and serene moments before dawn. A dawn vigil became the standard form of remembering the said event in several places after the war.
The second ceremony is conducted at the Australian War Memorial where veterans and their families come together with the Governor General and the Prime Minister to offer flowers and prayers at exactly 10.15 in the morning. Typically the Anzac Day ceremony will have an introduction and prayer, singing of hymns followed by messages and speeches. It is typically concluded by the playing of the “Last Post” and then the “Rouse” or “Reveille” before ending with the playing of the National Anthem. Afterwards family members place red poppies beside their relatives’ names etched on the Roll of Honor placed at the War Memorial.
Celebration of Anzac Day in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the commemoration of ANZAC Day is almost the same. The number of locals participating in ANZAC Day events in New Zealand and Gallipoli is always increasing. Because of the event, some think that waging war is futile. As Thomas Mann said, “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” Dawn Marches and other ANZAC Day commemoration are done by the different peace and order corps of New Zealand.
Other Anzac Day activities
Several countries around the world that have sent troops with the Allied Forces also celebrate the day in much the same way as the Australians and New Zealanders do. These two Asia-Pacific nations celebrate the day in other ways. There is a typical Anzac Day rugby league test game between Australia and New Zealand. In Australian Football League, there is an annual clash on Anzac Day between rivals Essendon and Collingwood. Domestically, there are club matches between traditional rivals Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra and between Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors in rugby league.
Anzac Day stimulates the thought of unity, somehow more significantly than any other event present on the national calendar. Those whose beliefs and dreams are greatly different can never be moved by the sadness brought about by the sacrifice of lives in the battlefield.