Anzac Day activities

The ANZAC Tradition of courage, determination and mateship, was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on the Gallipoli Peninsular.  It was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and saw some 25,000 Australian casualties.

This Gallipoli Campaign created a legend – the notion of the ANZAC spirit.

In 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand, England and by troops in Egypt.   That year 25th April was officially named ‘ANZAC Day’ by the acting Australian Prime Minister, George Pearce.

ANZAC Day ceremonies began in the 1920s and continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s, with World War II veterans joining parades around the country.  In the ensuing decades returned servicemen and women from the conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers joined the parades.


Red poppies were the first signs of life in the field of Northern France and Belgium after World War I.   Arising from the blood drenched ground bright red poppies were growing where four years of war led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including 45,000 Australians.  The poppy came to symbolise their blood.   The Poppy is also the symbol of regeneration, of new life, and of hope for the future.



The ancient Greeks believed that rosemary made their memories stronger.   This idea carries on today when people wear sprigs of rosemary as a symbol of remembrance for those who have died in wars.


The Dawn Service

The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today.


The half-light of dawn plays tricks with the soldiers’ eyes and, from the earliest times, the half hour or so before dawn, with all its greys, misty shadows, become one of the most favoured times for an attack.   Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake and manning their weapons.

This was, and still is known as “stand-to”.   It is repeated at sunset.  With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli at 4.29am on 25th April 1915, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s.

The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.