Anzac Day is the solemn day of remembrance of those Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who have fought and died for their country. It is marked annually on 25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War.
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In 1915, in an attempt to relieve their ally, Imperial Russia, the British and Colonial forces attacked the Gallipoli Peninsula in the European area of Turkey. The battle lasted for eight months and suffered huge casualties on both sides – over 44,000 Allied forces were killed, including 2,721 from New Zealand (after 8,556 NZ men landed).
The battle was known as the Battle of Çanakkale, but is more commonly known in New Zealand and Australia as the Gallipoli Campaign. The failure of the attack was largely blamed on strategic errors.
Today, Anzac Day commemorates the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The day was first commemorated in 1916 but, in the 1920’s, it became a national day of commemoration for the 18,000 New Zealanders and 60,000 Australians who lost their lives during World War I. ANZAC is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is usually written now as ‘Anzac’.
Although Anzac Day doesn’t celebrate a victory, it does celebrate the tenacity, bravery and honour of all who fought, whether they died or whether they were able to return home (4,752 New Zealanders were injured).
The red poppy is an international flower of remembrance. Around the world, many wear it on Armistace/Remembrance Day, 11 November, but in New Zealand and Australia it is more often worn on Anzac Day.
Each year on Anzac day, military and returned servicemen and servicewomen march to their local memorial for a Dawn Service where hymns are sung, speeches made and wreaths laid. Later in the morning there is also an Anzac Parade in most towns and cities. Many young people wear their grandparents’ medals as a show of respect and pride.
In New Zealand, the shops are shut until at least 1pm when the formal activities wind down. In the afternoon, in various centres, there are often special events like exhibitions, displays of military memorabilia, sports events and music shows.