News World Anzac Day: The importance and origin in Australia

Anzac Day: The importance and origin in Australia

Crowds gathering around the eternal flame at the dawn service on Anzac Day at the Shrine of Remembrance.
Crowds gather around the eternal flame on Anzac Day in 2017. Photo: Getty
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Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.

It is celebrated on April 25 every year and commemorates all the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought during World War I in Gallipoli.

It is also a time to remember all Australians killed in military operations over the years.

Why is Anzac Day so important for Australians?

On the morning of April 25, 1915, the allies landed on the shores of Gallipoli to to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany.

This was in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied naives.

The campaign went on for eight months with both sides suffering thousands of casualties.

Eventually the allied forces were evacuated and over 8000 Australian soldiers were killed. This had a profound impact on the country which shaped the nations identity on war.

Why do we have a dawn service on Anzac Day?

The dawn service symbolically links to the soldiers landing at dawn in Gallipoli.

The first official dawn service was held at Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Initially the service was restricted to veterans only – a time for them to reflect on their experiences at war with other comrades.

In later years, young people and families were encouraged to take part in the dawn service and wear a red poppy.

The service consists of an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of the wreaths, recitation, and the playing of The Last Post, Reveille and national anthems.

What is the origin of the acronym Anzac?

The acronym was formed from the letters of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

The soldiers were grouped together in this formation in Egypt before landing in Gallipoli.

It was first written as ‘A & NZ Army Corps’ however it was soon shortened to ANZAC by the clerks as a telegraphic code name.

The word ‘Anzac’ made its first appearance on April 24, 1915 on an appendix to the 1st Australian Division War Diary.

General Staff, Headquarters 1st Australian Division unit diary, April 1915
General Staff, Headquarters 1st Australian Division unit diary, April 1915. Photo: Australian War Memorial

Why do we use rosemary on Anzac Day?

Rosemary is traditionally worn on Anzac Day as it was found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula where the soldiers landed.

In ancient times, the herb was believed to have properties to improve the memory. Medical research has explored this belief and found that rosemary in powdered forms and oil do have positive effects on an memory.