Australia is celebrating the ANZAC Day on 25 April 2014. This means another long weekend. For most, it is good time spent with family or friends, but for many, it means a day to show that Australia remembers. It has been almost a century since ANZAC, and one may wonder what it is that Australia is keen not to forget.
War broke out in 1914 and the almost new, just-a-little-more-than-a-decade-old Australian federal commonwealth then was keen to establish its place amongst other nations of the world. It formed the ANZAC, or the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, as part of the allied forces that set out to capture and free the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the navy of the allied forces. To cut the long story short, the allied expeditionary forces failed in its objective to capture and free Gallipoli, and over 8,000 Australians died in what was expected to be a quick assault but quickly became a drawn out stalemate for 8 months.
The ANZACs did not win the battle, and many Australians died. 25 April, the day the ANZACs landed in Gallipoli, has since been observed to remember the sacrifice of those who fought and the many who died in the war. The Gallipoli campaign has played an important part in shaping the national identity of Australia and New Zealand and how the two countries view their shared history and the future. It was the first major test that Australia has faced as a nation, and it was a test which Australia has passed.
ANZAC day today commemorates not just the sacrifices of Australian soldiers in the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War, but the sacrifices of the Australian people in any war that it has been involved with, primarily as a member of the community of nations. ANZAC day honours the men and women in uniform and their sacrifices for the country.
ANZAC day is usually marked with a dawn service. The dawn service has its military origins. In a battle, the half-light of dawn is the preferred time for an attack. It is during this time that the enemy is expected to be tired and weary. Thus, it is also the time when soldiers need to be most awake and alert, called the 'stand-to'. Today, the peace and quiet of the dawn, and the promise it holds of a beautiful morning, makes it the ideal moment to remember the comradeship, the joys, and the pains, of those who have been in the war and those touched by the war. Increasingly, participation in the dawn service has grown, particularly in the major cities.