The 25th of April is Australia’s most important national day of remembrance and stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
99 years ago this freshly formed unit formed part of the Allied expedition which set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula and ultimately Constantinople (Istanbul) from enemy forces.
Landing on the Gallipoli beach on the morning of 25 April 1915, the attack ultimately failed after meeting very stiff resistance from Ottoman Turkish defenders. A bloody stalemate occurred on that beach for the next eight months, resulting in terrible causalities and over eight thousand Australian deaths (8,709 in total).
Other countries also suffered heavy losses: 21,255 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 from France, 2,721 from NZ, and 1,358 from British India.
Our troops were eventually evacuated at the end of 1915 and the following year the government established April 25 as an annual commemoration of the sacrifice made by our young men on that desolate beach.
Soon ‘ANZAC Day’ became an opportunity to remember the 60,000 Aussies who had given their lives in World War One. It subsequently became a day to commemorate all Australians who have served and had died in military conflicts around the world since.
ANZAC Day generally starts with thousands of commemorative dawn services across the country in every city and country town (Dawn being the time of the initial landing at Gallipoli). These services are attended by current and former members of our armed services, families and friends, as well as members of armed services from other countries, including NZ if they are visiting Australia.
Later in the morning, ex-service men and women participate in a march through the city, followed by a time of gathering together to remember those who died and celebrate the Aussie tradition of mateship, courage, loyalty and sacrifice.
A service is also held at Villers-Bretonneux in France, and a major commemorative service at Gallipoli in Turkey, with the 100 year anniversary occurring in 2015.
The Last Post is often played by a lone buglar, and the Ode to Remembrance is often read out:
They shall grow not 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.
Living each adventure,
Trev and Chris Barre
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