Anzac Day, a national day of commemoration in Australia and New Zealand, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The men who fought within the ANZAC Corps soon became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.
Anzac Day is held on 25th April, the day that Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli, and met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. This bold campaign intended to knock Turkey out of the war soon became a stalemate. After eight months, the Allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula. Nearly 28,000 Australians were made casualty during the campaign, while New Zealand losses amounted to almost 8000. Gallipoli had a profound impact on the Australian and New Zealand nations, and 25th April soon became a special day of remembrance. The 'Anzac Legend' also became an important part of the identities of each nation, shaping the ways in which they viewed both their past and future.
The first Anzac Day commemorations were held on 25th April 1916 in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. For the remaining years of the war Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities.
Anzac Day was established as a national day of commemoration in the 1920s and by the 1930s all the rituals we now associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games – were firmly established as part of Anzac Day culture.
Today, the services commemorate not just the Anzacs of the First World War but all Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women who have served in various wars and peace keeping missions.
On Anzac Day, Dawn Services are held throughout Australian and New Zealand and also upon the former battlefields. The timing of these services corresponds to the timing of dawn attacks, a favoured operational routine still used by modern armies today as the half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers' eyes. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken just before dawn, so that they would be alert and manning their weapons by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield. This moment, called "Stand-to", was also repeated at sunset.