Tuesday, 22 April 2008

ANZAC Day: 25 April

The 25th April is ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). It commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women. Perhaps more effectively than any other date in the National calendar Anzac Day promotes a sense of unity amongst the people of New Zealand. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can nevertheless share a genuine sorrow at the loss of so many lives in war.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.

The Gallipoli campaign was, however, a costly failure for the Allies, who after nine months abandoned it and evacuated their surviving troops. Almost a third of the New Zealanders taking part had been killed; the communities they came from had counted the cost in the lengthy casualty lists that appeared in their newspapers. And the sacrifice seemed to have been in vain, for the under-resourced and poorly-conducted campaign did not have any significant influence on the outcome of the war.

After Gallipoli, New Zealand had a greater confidence in its distinct identity, and a greater pride in the international contribution it could make. The mutual respect earned during the fighting formed the basis of the close ties with Australia that continue today.

In New Zealand Anzac Day is also Poppy Day in place of Remembrance Day. This Country's equivilent to the British Legion is the RSA or Returned Services Association which organises Poppy Day.

Anzac Day is a public holiday and compulsory half-day for the shops.

Gallipoli Statistics:

260 - days of the Gallipoli Campaign

8556 - NZ forces landed: 4852 NZ forces wounded, 2721 NZ forces fatalities

8709 - Australian forces fatalities

33,072 - fatalities from all British forces

10,000* - French fatalities

87,000* - Turkish fatalities

20,000* - total number attending 2005 Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli

*Estimated number

The Ode
A veteran on Anzac Day.

This is the verse of the ode that is said during the minutes of silence on Anzac Day:

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.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), For the Fallen (1914), stanza 4

The verse is traditionally concluded with the words "Lest We Forget"

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