25 April is the national day of commemoration of Australia and New Zealand for victims of war and for recognition of the role of their armed forces. It marks the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces became known as ANZACs. Anzac Day is a commemoration of the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli, Turkey on 25 April in 1915. When Great Britain declared war against Germany for its invasion of Belgium in 1914, Australia and New Zealand, as Dominions within the British Empire, regarded themselves automatically also at war.
At dawn on 25 April 1915, the first of approximately 70,000 soldiers from the Allies landed at Gallipoli. The objective was to drive through to Istanbul, take Turkey out of the war and to provide supplies to Russia in its fight against Germany. Out of these 70,000 soldiers, more than 20,000 were Australian and New Zealand soldiers. What had been planned as a bold stroke became a stalemate after the invading troops failed to reach their objective on the first day. For the next eight months they clung to the land they had captured, before eventually withdrawing at the end of 1915.
After both sides had suffered heavy casualties, the Allied forces were evacuated. It is estimated that 8,700 Australian and 2,700 New Zealanders were killed. One year later, in 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. That year, 25 April was officially named ‘Anzac Day’ by the Acting Australian Prime Minister, George Pearce.
Today we speak of an ‘Anzac tradition’, meaning the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship that are still relevant to this day.