Why do we celebrate Anzac Day?

A day to reflect and remember, Anzac Day (25th April) marks the day that the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps (ANZAC) landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. It was part of a strategic move by Allied forces to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula and control the entrance to the Dardanelles, which was an important supply route to Russia.

The ultimate goal of the Allies was to capture Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), which was then the capital of the Ottoman Empire (a German ally) but resulted in an eventual withdrawal of the ANZAC troops. The Gallipoli Campaign saw huge losses on both sides but has left a powerful legacy, with the “Anzac legend” becoming an integral part of Australian and New Zealander identity.

Both Australia and New Zealand were relatively “young” nations at the time and hadn’t had much exposure on the international stage. So their involvement in World War I was seen as a chance to prove themselves and this responsibility rode on the shoulders of its young soldiers. Nicknamed “Diggers”, they were seen to be hardy, resourceful and embodied the ANZAC spirit of “mate ship”.

The “Diggers” made significant sacrifices to create the safe and free countries we now live in and Anzac Day is a moment for all Australians and New Zealanders to reflect on how this affects their lives and the things that are really worth fighting for. It is also a time to pay tribute to all servicemen and women who have lost their lives in military or peacekeeping operations for their country.

Because of their significance in Australian and New Zealand history, the battlefields and cemeteries of the Gallipoli Peninsula have now become a site of pilgrimage for not only Turks, but also Australians and New Zealanders. One of the most popular times to visit is for the annual Dawn Service that takes place each Anzac Day at the purpose-built Anzac Commemorative Site.

The Dawn Service includes speeches from dignitaries and politicians honouring those who have made sacrifices for their country and a minute’s silence. The “Last Post” bugle call also resonates in the pre-dawn hours, creating a poignant moment that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.