ANZAC Day – 25th April 2017

Posted on Tue 04/25/2017 by


By Anton Lang ~

Why is ANZAC Day so important in Australia?

At 4.15AM on Sunday the 25th April 1915 an untried Corps of Australian soldiers waded ashore from the longboats that had brought them there from the large troopships further out to sea. As they came ashore in the dawn’s half light they were mowed down in droves by the Turkish soldiers who had the high ground.

An original image of one of the landings at ANZAC Cove, this one at 8AM on April 25 1915. (Image Credit – Australian War Memorial Archives)

The place was an insignificant little Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, part of Turkey, near a small place known as Ari Burnu, now forever known as ANZAC Cove, a small piece of Australian Sacred Ground on a foreign shore.

The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Forces from New Zealand were also part of this campaign, hence the acronym includes New Zealand, who, while part of this campaign, were under the command of their own fellow New Zealanders. This was a combined effort, and this day is also recognised just as reverently in New Zealand.

So, why is this one day so revered by Australians, when the 8 Month campaign that followed was considered in the main overall scheme of the War as a failure, considering that Australia has been part of so many famous victories on fields of battle in War since that time.

The original Badge of the Australian Army, worn on the hats of every Australian soldier. This is known as The Rising Sun Badge.

This was when Australian troops, commanded by Australians fought for the first time for each other as fellow Australians.

Those coming ashore who survived this original murderous onslaught regrouped and started to fight back. This campaign lasted for eight and a half months. In that time, Australian soldiers announced to the World that they were now no longer an untried group of colonials, but a magnificent fighting force in their own right, and one to be reckoned with.

During those 8 Months, nine Australians were awarded The Victoria Cross for valour, the highest award for bravery that there is. (This is the equivalent of the Medal of Honor in the U.S.) In fact, seven of those medals were awarded in just one  three day period. This was at Lone Pine, in August, where the Australians engaged in what was a diversionary feint to disguise the massed landing by the British further up the Coast at Suvla Bay. This Lone Pine engagement was some of the most savage hand to hand combat in close quarters of the whole 8 Month period at Gallipoli.

During that 8 Month period of this Gallipoli Campaign, 8,709 Australian soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

Each year from then forward, Australia has recognised that day of the first landing as the most solemn of days on our Calendar, when we, as a nation, pay reverent homage, not only to those brave men who fought and died at Gallipoli, but to all our Australian Military forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in times of all Wars, and for all our current serving men and women in Australia’s military forces.

Dawn Services are held across the Country timed for 4.15AM local time at memorials in the large Capital cities, and across cities and towns all over Australia, literally at thousands of such places. While still early morning at that time, these services are always attended by masses of people all across Australia.

Later that same morning, marches are held in many of these places as well. Those marches in the Capital cities have literally thousands of men and women marching, with only veterans and current serving members from the three armed forces, and some marches may only have a handful of men marching, as numbers now thin out with the passing of years.

While those people march, many thousands line the length of the march and pay solemn tribute to those old men who fought so that we actually could line those streets to salute them, and to also pay silent tribute to those who did not come home.

ANZAC Day April 25th 2017

In 1916, only one year after that landing at Gallipoli, a decision was made to recognise that one day, April 25th, as a day to remember what happened at Gallipoli, with special services timed at 4.15AM, the time of that original landing, and later in the day to have marches where people could honour those men who paid the ultimate price during that landing and the following campaign. In 1916, there were only a small number of places where this happened. This form of Commemoration gained strength even in those early years, and quite soon, the Dawn Service and then the March later in the day became an established tradition. It was thought that it might fade away, but it has come back strongly, and now those services timed at 4.15AM are attended by crowds larger than ever before, and increasing in attendance with each passing year. One of the best attended of all the Dawn Services in Australia is the one held at the War Memorial in our National Capital, Canberra. Across recent years, perhaps one of the best attended Services at 4.15AM local time is the one held at ANZAC Cove on that Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, where many thousands travel from Australia to gather for the Service at 4.15AM on the same soil where those brave men came ashore in 1915. It has almost become one of the things to do in life as young people flock to this one place to be part of this tradition. The Service at Gallipoli this year has fewer numbers, mainly due to the political unrest in Turkey, but the local security is higher this year than in earlier years, as this is an important thing for the Turkish people themselves, so they go out of their way to keep that Service free of any incidents, and none has ever happened there, or the Service later in the day at Lone Pine. There are also a large number of Services held in France as the Australian Force was instrumental in the War in that area. In fact, quite a large number of schools in that area have an image of that Australian Rising Sun Badge in a highly visible place and under each Badge are the words ‘Never Forget Australia’. One of the better attended Services in France is at a small village called Villers-Bretonneux. The link below to General Sir John Monash explains why this area is also so important to Australia.

Attendance at the marches  diminish each year as those ranks of veterans thin out, but the numbers of those lining the streets to watch increases with each passing year. For a long time now, there has been no First Great War Veterans left to march, and even those veterans from the Second World War are now thinning dramatically. Australia still has many veterans from other fields of conflict, most recent among them, young men who served Australia with distinction in Afghanistan, and the marches are well attended by current serving members from every branch of the Australian Military.

A Personal Observation

I spent 25 years as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, and during that time I attended a number of Dawn Services, and also marched in a number of these marches. In my early days, sometimes these were looked upon as a bit of a chore, which soon evaporated with the pride we all felt during the marches, as ranks of us marched down the Streets of Newcastle. However, those early morning services timed for 4.15AM were always a little tough. I never really minded because I knew this was one time when we, as members of a military service actually felt the respect from the general population. I remember one time specifically, early on in the 1970s, when I was still just gone 20 years old. One of my friends was grumbling that we had to get up at around 2AM, to dress in our uniforms, go to work, and parade for inspection, and then to get in the buses that took us to that Dawn Service, so we could be there in time to march in our ranks to the Cenotaph, and be there in time for the Service which began at 4.15AM, so it was a long night. Not long after the inspection on that morning, a young newly promoted Corporal, not much older than I was, asked our Flight’s Officer if he could say a few words, and it wasn’t a long ‘few words’. He mentioned that he had heard some grumbling about what we had to do to prepare for this morning. He then asked us to ponder on what those young men, most of them only our age, were doing on that morning back in 1915, at the same time. They were dropping over the sides of their transport ships into small boats to be towed ashore, where other men, also our own age were going to be shooting at them, knowing that some of them would be killed. It gave all of us a whole new meaning to what we were doing. I remember that morning so well.

News articles for ANZAC Day

This link details events from The War Memorial in Canberra, where around 38,000 people braved the cold and rain to attend what is probably the best attended Dawn Service in Australia.

This link has articles and images of events from around Australia.

The Service at ANZAC Cove on Gallipoli is still happening and this link details some of the early events there, and also at Villers-Bretonneux, and at some of the lead up events as well.

Related Posts

General Monash reviewing his last ANZAC Day Parade, 25th April 1931. Image From Australian Government National Archives.

Over the nine years I have been contributing at this site, I have detailed all those previous ANZAC Days, and I have also detailed the landing, and the withdrawal, and for further information, I will include those links here. Each of those Posts includes some of the other aspects about the original landing and subsequent action during the eight and a half Month Campaign.

Permanent link to the Index for the nine earlier ANZAC Day Posts.

The Birth Of A Nation. My first ANZAC Day Post from 2008. This details the original landing at Ari Burnu, which is now known as ANZAC Cove, in the early morning of 25th April 1915.

Troop Drawdown. This details the withdrawal of troops from the Peninsula at the end of the Campaign in January 1916.

General Sir John Monash.  This Post is about a Brigade Commander from Gallipoli, Colonel John Monash, who went on to become a General and who was instrumental in the conclusion of the First World War.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.