ANZAC Day is the 25th of April. It is a day that is set aside in both New Zealand and Australia to think about and honour those who have fought for our freedom. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day is a public holiday.

ANZAC day is strongly linked to the landing of the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in 1915. ANZAC Day was first celebrated in 1916 with memorial services, commemorating the lives lost in the 8 month period spent by ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Pressure was brought to bear by returned soldiers and their organisations, and the day became a public holiday in the early 1920s. Although the term "ANZAC" only officially referred to those who fought in WWI it was later decided that the day should also officially remember those who served in WWII. These days it also incorporates the men and women who served in later wars such as Vietnam and Korea; and those who have served in actions such as "Desert Storm", and peace keeping operations such as those in Bosnia and Bougainville.
Most communities in New Zealand have at their heart a memorial commemorating the war dead of the area, and around these wreath laying ceremonies are held each ANZAC Day. For a while it was feared that ANZAC Day would become less important as the remaining WWI veterans leave us one by one, but the crowds at the main ANZAC Day parades (where the veterans and other service organisations march) have been swelling again in the past few years to the point where some people have suggested that ANZAC Day should be made our National Day. It has been particularly good to note that many of those attending services are young people and families, which bodes well for the future. On ANZAC Day 1996 there were still three NZ Gallipoli veterans alive. Since then the last two still residing in NZ have died. The last, Alfred Douglas Dibley, (Doug), died Dec 18th 1997 and was posthumously awarded the QSO for public services in the 1998 New Years Honours list.



Although red poppies are a symbol of Remembrance Day (Nov 11th) in New Zealand they are more closely associated with ANZAC Day. They grew wild on the European battlefields of WWI. One story has it that the soldiers were able to look out from their battle trenches across these fields of poppies and imagine that each represented a fallen soldier; another which appears more credible is that poppies grew more easily in the churned up soil of the battlefields making the blood red flowers a potent symbol of the war. In New Zealand poppy buttonholes are sold by volunteers on the weekday prior to ANZAC Day which is known as Poppy Day and the proceeds go towards helping veterans, and their families. This tradition started back in 1922.

In human terms the cost of WWI to New Zealand was horrendous. Between 1914-1918 out of a population of 1 million nearly 17 000 men - 1 in 65 of the population did not return from the war. The total NZ casualties in the war represented one in 17 of the population. The casualties at Gallipoli were 33 000, including 8000 New Zealanders and 7000 Australians. Out of 10 000 Kiwis who fought at Gallipoli 3000 lost their lives and 5000 were wounded. If those figures were put in context with the USA population today, [1996], it would be like the US sending away 2.5 million men and 2 million of them being killed or wounded.

Each year our Guide unit attends an ANZAC Day service at the Karori Cemetery, Wellington, where we lay rosemary sprigs and ANZAC poppies on a special area of soldiers' graves.

ANZAC Biscuits

The history of these biscuits is uncertain. One story goes that when New Zealand and Australian soldiers joined forces in WWI, thus becoming the ANZACs, someone decided to make a biscuit to celebrate. Another story says that as the biscuits are economical to make, nourishing, and store well, enabling families in New Zealand and Australia to send these biscuits in food parcels to ANZAC troops serving overseas. As they do survive rough handling and are delicious with the hot tea that was standard rations to the soldiers this is very plausible. It is certain that the recipe has strong links to Scottish Oatcakes which early settlers brought to NZ with them. Adapted to NZ ingredients these probably metamorphosised into ANZAC Biscuits. The biscuits were sold to help fundraise for the Red Cross and the Returned Servicemen's Association from near the beginning of World War I. Whatever the true origins, these biscuits are a delicious Kiwi and Aussie tradition.
One version of the recipe can be found on our Kiwi Cuisine page.

Quotes relating to ANZAC Day:

Ataturk rose from the battles of Gallipoli to become a great Turkish statesman; this quote made by him in 1934 commemorates the losses on both sides. It is inscribed on the memorial at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli and more recently on the Ataturk memorial on a Wellington headland which is supposed to be a little like the coast around Gallipoli:

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives;
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehemets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are at peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well."

Elsdon Best, a New Zealand writer and poet, wrote these words on the death of his friend Paul Freyberg (brother of Sir Bernard Freyberg, V.C.). Paul was mortally wounded while fighting at Basseville, France, in 1917. (Basseville is 10 miles south of Ypres)

Today the lonely winds are loose
And crying goes the rain.
While here we walk the field they knew
The dead who died in pain.
The fields that wait the slow hours long
For sounds that shall not come.
In other fields, in other earth
The laughing hearts are dumb.

And finally - as heard at every ANZAC Day service around the country on April 25th each year:

The ANZAC Dedication:
For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

The casualty figures on this page come from Sir Keith Sinclair's most excellent book - "A History of New Zealand" and from a speech by the Rt. Hon. Don McKinnon, ANZAC DAY 1996. The Elsdon Best lines are quoted in "Bernard Freyberg V.C. - Soldier of Two Nations" written by Paul Freyberg. Hodder and Stoughton, 1991. p.109.
For some more detailed ANZAC Day info visit this great Aussie ANZAC Day site
Also worth a visit is the Anzac Day Website - a great site put together by students of Room 3 - 5/6 OS at Forbes Primary School in South Australia

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