25 April, 2012

ANZAC, what's that?

Today is ANZAC Day. Now the Australians reading this blog won't need to be reminded of that. They've got a public holiday and restrictions on trading, at least in the morning in most places, I imagine. But there are many who aren't from Australia who read this site. Apparently only 46% of the visitors to this site are people living in Australia, so I feel quite justified in spending some time explaining one of Australia's main national days.

ANZAC Day is like Remembrance Day. It began as a day to remember the below event, the first time Australian and New Zealand troops fought under their own flag. From my understanding, prior to this event in WW1 Australians and New Zealanders fought as British troops. This was a time of proving who we were as a nation.

There are no ANZACs (i.e. men who fought in that particular campaign) left these days, after all this was 97 years ago, but the tradition of Dawn Services and parades through cities and towns in the two countries remains as a way of remembering that freedom isn't free, and passing that on to our children.

I linked to this government website on my Facebook page, but because it explains it so well, I'm going to paste the information here.

What is ANZAC Day?

ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

What does ANZAC stand for?

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

Why is this day special to Australians?

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.
The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. 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, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.
Yesterday I brought this up as a topic of conversation at the breakfast table. I was surprised at how much the boys knew, especially our eldest. He's learned lots, I'm not sure where from, but he's certainly good at retaining information.

Australia hasn't seen much war on its own land. Aborigines faced hostility when white men were taking over the country in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In fact they've faced hostility of various forms ever since then, but it has never been a civil war-type situation.

The only time war came to our shores was when the Japanese were taking over SE Asia. They bombed Darwin and submarines were captured in Sydney harbour. Most of the wars Australia has been involved in were other people's wars. However it is good to remember the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made.


Footprints Australia said...

Well even I learnt something here despite being Aussie born and bred!

Putting on my own editor's hat for a minute, just thought I'd mention that where you've used the word "aboriginal" it should have been "aborigines". Aboriginal is an adjective. Just a tip! ;-)

Wendy said...

Thanks Footprints. I'll fix that now! Even editors need editors.

Jon and Missy Damon said...

I'm one of the 54%, but I've spent quite a bit of time in Oz. I've even been there for Anzac Day and did not know what it was--assumed it was something similar to the American Memorial Day. It is, but with a more specific purpose. So now I know...thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

Actually there is a lot of debate about the use of Aborigines or Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people seems to be more acceptable but some lean towards using terms that refer to more specific people groups.