Lest We Forget
On the 25th of April, the first day of the Gallipoli campaign will be commemorated with services of remembrance in countries around the world. Nations as far apart as New Zealand and Turkey will pause to pay homage to the soldiers who fell in one of the most bloody and futile campaigns of World War One.
The loss of life suffered by the Australian and New Zealand forces who fought in the campaign had such a profound effect on these two young countries that the 25th of April, first day of the campaign, was christened ANZAC Day in 1916 and has been observed every year since.
Though the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) suffered terrible losses and the Gallipoli campaign was a failure, the contribution the New Zealand forces made went far beyond the battlefield. The determination, bravery and loyalty of these forces helped define a national identity for our small country and forever cemented our ties with Australia.
The Reality of War
1915 seems like a long way off for us now in modern-day New Zealand and the passage of time can sometimes smooth the rough edges off history. To help bring home the reality of the Gallipoli carnage a few figures (from www.anzac.govt.nz) might be instructive.
Of the 8,556 New Zealand soldiers that landed at Gallipoli 2,721 were killed and 4,852 were wounded.
8,709 Australian forces killed.
33,072 British forces killed
An estimated 10,000 French fatalities.
An estimated 87,000 Turkish fatalities.
An Enduring Symbol
The relatives of soldiers overseas – mainly mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends – wishing to augment the limited and nutritionally deficient diet their men were suffering while fighting in the conflict, sought to find a food which they could send to the forces.
The efforts of these women resulted in one of the enduring symbols of remembrance of the Gallipoli campaign – the ANZAC biscuit.
ANZAC Biscuit Obstacles
Women wishing to send food overseas during World War One faced two obstacles. Firstly, wartime caused shortages of certain ingredients – items like eggs were at a premium and both expensive and difficult to obtain. Secondly, transport was extremely slow. Supplies and mail were carried by sea and could take as much as two months to reach their destination.
What was needed was a food that could be cheaply made from ingredients that were readily available and which would survive the prolonged transit time.
The Soldiers’ Biscuit
Such a food, based on a Scottish oatcake recipe, made it’s first appearance in 1915. Known as the Soldiers’ biscuit, it was a concoction of oats, sugar, flour, coconut, butter, and golden syrup. These ingredients did not spoil easily, tasted great and combined to provide a nutritious addition to a soldier’s diet.
A Change of Name
After the tragedy of the Gallipoli campaign, as a mark of respect and remembrance, the Soldiers’ biscuit become known in Australia and New Zealand as the ANZAC biscuit.
By making a batch of your own ANZAC biscuits you’ll be remembering in a small way the young men who died so bravely on the shores of a country halfway around the world.
ANZAC Biscuit Recipe
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup plain flour
- ½ cup butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
Melt the butter and the golden syrup together. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and the boiling water and add this solution to the butter and golden syrup. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to a firm consistency.
Drop small spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180˚C.
Cool on a wire rack.
A Thoughtful Present
ANZAC biscuits are always a hit with the kids, they also make a thoughtful present for friends and neighbours at this time of year.
To see some scenes of last year’s ANZAC Day check out this video.