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News | April 27, 2016

ANZAC Day: Lest we forget

By DIA Public Affairs

On the clear, brisk morning of April 25, several hundred individuals gathered at the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall to remember and honor all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations, and to honor the contribution and suffering of all those who have served in uniform. The annual dawn service begins at 5:45 a.m. to represent the timeframe the first troops of the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli, Turkey. The Returned and Services League (RSL) of Australia provided attendees with the traditional sprig of rosemary and a red poppy; the rosemary grew wild at Gallipoli, and the red flower is emblematic of The Great War of 1914-1918.

Several Commonwealth officials attended the event, including the Australian Ambassador to the U.S.; the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish Defense Attachés; and the Director General Chaplaincy of the Australian Army. During the service, a representative from the Embassy of Turkey recited founding President Kemal Ataturk’s moving tribute to the ANZAC soldiers, nothing that those who lost their lives are “now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace.”

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I, and remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand.  

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers joined an Allied mission set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, to open a second front and, in reaching the Black Sea, open an aid route to ally Imperial Russia. The ANZAC force that landed at Gallipoli April 25 met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turks defending the heights. The Australian Army’s nickname, the Diggers, comes from expedition commander General Ian Hamilton’s exhortation upon landing to “dig, dig, dig until you are safe.” By the end of 1915, the Allied forces evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.

The Allied casualties included 21,255 from the United Kingdom – 4 ,000 of which were Irish soldiers from the Royal Irish Fusiliers; an estimated 10,000 from France; 8,709 from Australia; 2,721 from New Zealand; and 1,358 from British India. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home, and April 25 became the day on which they remember the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

Though the Gallipoli campaign failed to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the heroism of the Australian and New Zealand troops during the campaign left a powerful legacy. The people of Australia and New Zealand link AZNAC Day to their national identities, commemorating the values of courage, endurance, sacrifice and mateship.