Anzac Day

In 1914 Australia had been a Federal Commonwealth for just 14 years and the new government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world.  In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey to open the way to the Black Sea.

The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany.  They landed at Gallipoli on April 25th and met fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. Instead of finding the flat beach they expected, they faced steep cliffs and constant barrages of enemy fire and shelling.  What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate and the campaign dragged on for eight months.   The ANZACs and the Turkish forces literally ‘dug in’, each side creating kilometres of trenches from where they could fire upon the enemy.

Thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers died in the hours and days that followed the landing. The stalemate ended in retreat with the evacuation of the ANZACs on 20 December 1915. Both sides suffered heavy casualties with more than 8,700 Australian soldiers killed and more than 25,000 wounded .

News of the landing at Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home.  April 25th quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.  Though the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand troops’ actions during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of the Anzac legend became an important part of the national identity of both nations.

Anzac Day was first officially held on 25 April 1916 with ceremonies and remembrance services.  In 1917, the word ANZAC meant someone who fought at Gallipoli, later it came to mean any Australian or New Zealander who fought or served in the First World War. By the 1920s, Anzac Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. All States had designated Anzac Day as a public holiday.

Commemoration of Anzac Day continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s with World War II veterans joining parades around the country. ANZAC Day evolved to became a day on which the lives of all Australians lost in war time were remembered. In the ensuing decades returned servicemen and women from the conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers joined the parades

Anzac biscuits were created during the early period of the First World War around 1914-15. They were made by the women on the “home front” in an endeavor to make a nutritious treat that did not readily spoil and would survive the long journey to the war front. The Anzac biscuit recipe was based on a Scottish recipe using rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle and bi-carb soda. To ensure the biscuits remained fresh, the women sent them in air-tight tins such as the Billy Tea tins.  Today Anzac biscuits are a family favourite and are often sold by veterans’ organisations in fundraising drives. (source:media.australia)