Anzac Day 2021: What is Anzac Day? Why is it so important in Australia and New Zealand?

Prince William joins New Zealand PM for Anzac Day service

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Anzac Day – on Sunday, April 25 – is a day to mark the service of members of the armed forces who have served, fought and died for their country. It is celebrated on the same date every year, and is a major national holiday in both Australia and New Zealand.

What is Anzac Day?

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, the World War One army corps that fought in the Battle of Gallipoli.

The Commonwealth soldiers attempted to take the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey to enable Allied forces to capture the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

They landed on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, which became the date for Anzac Day.

The bloody battle dragged on for eight months and ultimately failed but not before claiming the lives of eight thousand Anzac soldiers.

The Anzacs, as the troops were known, disbanded after the war finished in 1918 before briefly reuniting for the Second World War.

The first Australian commemorations remembering the men’s sacrifice began on April 25, 1916.

A national day of remembrance was later established in the 1920s for the 60,000 Australians who died in total during World War One.

Anzac Day is now marked as an official commemoration day in Australia, with formal ceremonies held in all the country’s major cities.

A dawn service is traditionally held to mark the preferred time of launching a military attack.

Why is Anzac Day so important to Australia and New Zealand?

The Australian Army wrote: “Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national commemorative occasions.

“It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.”

The Australian War Memorial wrote: “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.

“At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships.

“More than 8,000 Australian soldiers had died in the campaign. Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

“Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy.

“What became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways in which they viewed both their past and their future.”

In 1916 the first Anzac Day commemorations were held on April 25.

The day was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services across Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt.

However, in recent years, support has been falling for Anzac Day celebrations as past wars become less relevant to younger generations.

Estimated crowds at dawn services fell by about 70 percent between 2015 and 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research conducted by Flinders University.

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