The 25th of April commemorates the World War One landing of New Zealand and Australian forces on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.
The loss of life in the Gallipoli campaign, coupled with the bravery, sacrifice and determination of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps had such a profound effect on the populations of both countries that the 25th of April was designated an annual day of remembrance.
First observed in 1916, ANZAC day has come to serve as a commemoration not only for the ANZACs who fell in Gallipoli, but also for those members of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces who served their countries in later conflicts.
Commemorating ANZAC Day
In New Zealand, ANZAC Day commemorations follow a now traditional pattern and include the dawn service, breakfast, mid-morning service, parades, gatherings at Returned Services Associations (RSAs) and other events appropriate to the day.
The Dawn Service
The most poignant of ANZAC Day commemorations is the dawn service. Running from before dawn to just after, the service begins with a parade of returned servicemen and women that terminates at a local war memorial where the service is held.
The dawn service includes prayers, readings, hymns, an address and the national anthem. It is traditional for a piper to play and for the war memorial to be surrounded by an honour guard of young, uniformed services personnel, standing with heads down-turned over reversed arms – a moving reminder of how young many fallen servicemen and women were.
The ANZAC Dedication is also read at the dawn service and serves as a remembrance of the history of the ANZACS and their fallen members, and as an affirmation of the ANZAC spirit.
Perhaps the best known of the passages associated with the ANZAC Day dawn service, though, is the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”:
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.
After the dawn service, the local RSA hosts a breakfast where returned servicemen and women and those who attended the service are able to mix, reminisce and share a cup of tea and an ANZAC biscuit.
The Citizens’ Service
Held mid-morning, the citizens’ service is perhaps the more public face of ANZAC Day commemorations. It is typically the service attended by families from the surrounding area and never fails to stir emotions with its parade of flags and uniformed service personnel. One can never watch such a parade without reflecting with gratitude on the sacrifices made by those who served of past conflicts, sacrifices which have helped to shape the world we live in today.
The service following the parade mirrors much of the dawn service and offers the opportunity for individuals and organizations to lay wreaths at the foot of the war memorial.
After the Service
At the conclusion of the citizens service, the RSA again plays host. Veterans, their families and serving personnel mingle, have a bite to eat and remember lost comrades.
Though ANZAC Day commemorations officially finish at 1 p.m. it has become the norm for various ANZAC-themed events such as fly-overs, public gatherings and displays of military equipment and tradition to continue throughout the day.
A Moving Public Holiday
ANZAC day – a public holiday in New Zealand if it falls on a weekday – is a time to mourn the loss of those New Zealanders who have died in wars around the world, to reflect on the need to attempt peaceful resolution of future conflicts if at all possible and, for the vast majority of us who have never had to face an enemy, to feel particularly lucky that we ourselves have not had to serve.
For more information on ANZAC Day visit the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association.
You can watch a video ANZAC tribute below.