Most people I've met over here who aren't Aussie or Kiwi have never heard of ANZAC Day, or understand the significance it has to Australians and New Zealanders. It is difficult to try and explain, but I will do my best:
On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed at the Gallipoli pennisula in Turkey. The intention was for the Allied forces to capture Constantinople (what is now Istanbul) and open up a sea route to Russia. However, both the landing and subsequent 8 month campaign were unsuccessful and there was high numbers of casualties on both sides. You can read more about the battle here and here
That doesn't really explain though why Australians and New Zealanders commemorate ANZAC Day. At the time of the landings (1915), both Australia and New Zealand were small, relatively young countries (Australia had only become a federated nation 14 years previously) and had very strong links to Britain. The Gallipoli landings were really the first chance both Australia and New Zealand had to 'stand on our own two feet', and it is felt that the soldiers at Gallipoli showed great courage, mateship, humour and larrikinism - what has come to be known as the 'ANZAC spirit.'
Today, on 25 April (ANZAC Day), Australians and New Zealanders remember not only those soldiers that served at Gallipoli, but all soldiers from all wars.
(just as an aside, the Gallipoli landings are also considered very significant to the Turkish people, and are remembered by them each year)
I don't think I've done a particularly good job of explaining it, but it is something that we just grow up with in Australia and New Zealand, and I can't really put it into words.....
Every year, dawn services are held on ANZAC day to remember all soldiers from all conflicts, including a service at Gallipoli. There are also services held at the Australian, Turkish and New Zealand memorial sites within the Gallipoli pennisula. I was fortunate enough to attend the dawn service, as well as the Australian and New Zealand memorial services. It was an incredibly moving experience, that I don't think I'll ever be able to express in words.
Some photos from the day:
|memorial wall at Lone Pine (Australian memorial)|
|sunset over ANZAC cove, 24 April|
|sleeping out, night of 24 April, waiting for the Dawn Service (its all part of the experience)|
|looking up at the cliffs the ANZAC soldiers would have faced|
|wreaths laid at the Dawn Service|
|Lone Pine (Australian memorial site)|
|Chunuk Bair (New Zealand memorial site, I couldn't get any closer than this)|
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.
Lest we forget.