The Anzac celebrations are close to the heart of the Australian and New Zealand community. April 25th marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by antipodean forces in World War 1. The military objectives of the campaign failed and with over 8000 soldiers killed it was instantly a stark reminder of how brave Australian and New Zealand young men had sacrificed their lives. 2014 marked the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War so it is expected that even more people in 2015 will be hoping to trace ancestors who fought and died.

The origins of ANZAC day

2015 will commemorate the 100th anniversary of when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) facilitated their expedition to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied forces. The 25th April marks the day when the invasion force landed on Gallipoli. It was meant to be a fast confrontation knocking Turkey out of the war but the opposition proved to be greater than expected and with both sides suffering heavy casualties the campaign dragged on for 8 months. News of the resulting death toll hit Australian and New Zealand hard and the first ANZAC Remembrance Day was officially set in 1916.

What does Anzac day mean to Australia and New Zealand?

The importance to both Australia and New Zealand increased and has come to symbolise and commemorate the loss of 60,000 soldiers in the First World War and also the sacrifices made in the Second World War. It is a poignant reminder of how the two countries have fought together, made sacrifices and remained strong. ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand is also a day when ordinary men and women reflect on the many different meanings of war.

The first ANZAC commemorations

In 1916 for the first commemoration the numerous marches which were held throughout Australia triggered the headline in a London newspaper “The Knights of Gallipoli”. In London itself over 2000 Australian and New Zealand Soldiers marched through the streets. As the First World War progressed April 25th became an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns.

In 1927 ANZAC day became a public holiday and in the 1930’s the rituals which are now closely associated with the celebrations began (dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games).  It took on a new dynamic when it commemorated the sacrifices made in the Second World War in the 1940’s.

ANZAC celebrations today

 ANZAC day begins with the Dawn Service. The timing is significant as dawn is the time of the original landing in Gallipoli in 1915. Simple services in the presence of a chaplain, they followed a Military routine and often this service was originally restricted to veterans. At the end of the service a lone bugler plays the last post. Nowadays with families and well-wishers taking part cities and large towns see huge turnouts.

The ANZAC day ceremony takes place at 10.15 am at the ANZAC War Memorial in the presence of the Prime Minister and the Governor General. It generally includes the laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem.

Forces War Records is a genealogical site which is focussed specifically on military and war information and offers the opportunity for current generations to trace their ancestors’ role in major wars from the Napoleonic era to World War 2.

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