There’s plenty of talk around Ireland this year as we gear up for the 1916 centenary celebrations. But 1916 wasn’t just a memorable year for Ireland. Australia marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War on April 25th each year. It’s known as Anzac Day and was officially named in 1916. It’s celebrated across the country, but most of the main festivities take place in the capital city of Canberra.
7 Facts about Anzac Day in Australia
We’ve rounded up some quick facts for you on Australia’s most significant national occasion so you can get the most from your visit down under.
1. Soldiers were known as Anzacs
ANZAC is actually an acronym for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces became known simply as Anzacs. Because they were so proud of their role and the name, it has stuck with them to this day, hence calling April 25th, Anzac Day.
2. This year marks 100 years since the Anzacs landed in Gallipoli
In 1915, the Anzacs set out to capture the Turkish Gallipoli peninsula, as part of a bigger plan to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul). Constantinople was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.
Ottoman Turkish defenders met the Anzacs with fierce resistance when they landed on April 25th, and a stalemate between the two forces lasted eight months before the Anzacs were evacuated.
Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed, and it is those who are remembered on Anzac Day.
3. Commemorative services are held at dawn
Because the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli at dawn, commemorative services on Anzac Day each year are also held at dawn. It observes a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today – soldiers are woken in the dark before dawn so that by the time light started to dawn, soldiers were awake, alert and ready with their weapons. Originally the dawn service was restricted to veterans but today everyone is encouraged to take part.
4. Rosemary is traditionally worn on Anzac Day
Rosemary has particular significance to Australians on Anzac Day because it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula. The herb is believed to improve memory. Because of this, traditionally Australians wear some Rosemary on Anzac Day each year.
5. Canberra hosts an Anzac Day parade near the War Memorial
The dawn service will take place at the War Memorial in Canberra, beginning from 4.30am, but later in the day further festivities take place. The National Ceremony begins at 10.15am and includes the national anthem, the laying of wreaths, hymns, sounding of the Last Post and a minute’s silence.
The Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrave also delivers a commemorative address. A parade of groups of armed services personnel and veterans proceed up to the War Memorial as well.
6. Don’t miss the War Memorial in Canberra at night
Over the course of the First World War, 62,000 Australians lost their lives. As part of the Centenary period, each of their names will appear for 30 seconds on 19 occasions between now and November 2018 – best seen at night time. As part of the Roll of Honour Soundscapes project, Australian primary school children have also recorded the names and ages of each of the 62,000 Australians and when you visit the Memorial, you will hear them read out.
7. Anzac is now also a biscuit
During the War, Australians would send biscuits high in nutrients over to soldiers. The basic ingredients were rolled oats, sugar, flour, coconut, butter, treacle and water – known then as the soldier’s biscuit. Now it’s one of few commodities allowed to take the Anzac name, to recognise the Anzac tradition and the fact it was part of the staple diet at Gallipoli.
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