Anzac Day 2021: Who Were The Anzacs?

April 25 is a special day for some of our Commonwealth troops as Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac day...

Anzac Day is one of the most significant national occasions for our Commonwealth allies in Australia and New Zealand.

The commemorative occasion, marked each year on April 25, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by these Commonwealth countries in the First World War.

What Is Anzac Day?

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and was formed in 1915.

In April of that year, the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades took part in a counter-attack to recapture Villers-Bretonneux from German forces, alongside three British battalions.

They landed on Gallipoli on April 25, meeting tough resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps' success effectively put an end to the Germans' 1918 spring offensive.

The brave Anzac soldiers, known colloquially as 'diggers', went out to claim Constantinople - now Istanbul - the capital of the Ottoman Empire and Germany's ally.

How Is It Remembered?

Dawn services in Australia, New Zealand, France, the UK and Turkey are held each year to remember the thousands of people who died during the ill-fated landing at the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey 106 years ago.

The services are held at this time because the half-light of dawn was a favoured time to launch an attack, according to the Australian War Memorial.

A commemorative address, one minute's silence and the sounding of the Last Post all happen at the ceremony as well as the playing of national anthems of New Zealand and Australia.

The first Anzac Day commemorations were held on April 25, 1916, and have gone on to become an important moment for the nations to honour their current armed forces.

In 2018 the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on social media:

"We best honour the Anzacs of 1918 and the First World War by supporting today's service men and women."

What Was It Like?

When the Anzacs landed on April 25, Turkish forces were ready for them.

Still, they fought on bravely for eight months, in horrendous conditions, over the bodies of 8,000 dead men.

More than 44,000 Allied soldiers were killed at Gallipoli.

Turkish casualties were estimated at 250,000. 

For many, Anzac Day is remembering the spirit of those Anzacs - soldiers who believed their countries were worth fighting and dying for.

Why Were Australia And New Zealand Involved?

When Britain declared war in August 1914, Australia was automatically placed on the side of the Commonwealth.

According to the Australian War Memorial:

"When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federated nation for only 13 years, and its government was eager to establish a reputation among the nations of the world."

"Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy."

Cover Image: ANZACs at Gallipoli (image from 'ANZAC Infantryman' by Ian Sumner © Osprey Publishing, part of Bloomsbury Publishing)