Anzac Day 2023: meaning of Australia and New Zealand day of remembrance, date - what does ‘Anzac’ stand for?

Marking the anniversary of the First World War Gallipoli landings, Anzac Day is a day for remembrance in Australia and New Zealand

Today, 25 April, marks Anzac Day - a day of remembrance for New Zealand and Australia.

Kiwis and Australians will greet the morning with commemorative dawn services, and acts of remembrance will be taking place throughout the day.

Here’s all you need to know about Anzac Day, from the Gallipoli Campaign to what 'Anzac' actually stands for.

What is Anzac Day?

Anzac Day is a broad day of remembrance commemorating all Australians and New Zealanders who have served and died in conflicts, wars and peacekeeping operations, recognising their sacrifices and suffering.

Observed on 25 April annually, the date was originally chosen to honour those Australians and New Zealanders who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War.

‘Anzac’ was an abbreviation for the ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ - a battalion of soldiers who served in the Gallipoli Campaign.

What was the Gallipoli Campaign?

The Gallipoli Campaign was an attempt by the Allies to allow their ships to pass through the Turkish Dardanelles Strait, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and knock Ottoman Turkey out of the First World War.

Separate landings were made by the Anzacs, the British and the French troops on 25 April 1915, though they were quickly contained by Ottoman troops, rendering the Allies unable to advance further. Mirroring trench warfare on the western front, fighting quickly broke out, with heavy losses suffered on both sides.

The losses included more than 8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders - nearly a sixth of those who had landed on the peninsula.

The hot summer weather also made conditions particularly unbearable, causing mass sickness and rendering food inedible fast. In spite of fresh attempts at attack by the Allies, the campaign ultimately failed and troops were forced to evacuate.

How is the day being marked in New Zealand and Australia?

Usually at dawn each year, people in Australia and New Zealand honour their fallen servicemen and women with a service.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of commemorative services in New Zealand in 2020.

In 2021, however, people were permitted to gather once again to remember the fallen, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attending and speaking at New Zealand’s largest service at the Auckland War Museum Memorial in Auckland Domain.

Similarly, Australians were once again permitted to gather for Anzac Day, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison reflecting on “another chapter coming to a close” as Australia prepares to withdraw its final troops from Afghanistan.

“This Anzac Day another chapter in our history is coming to a close, with the announcement last week of our departure and that of our great friend and ally the United States from Afghanistan,” Morrison said.

Will the day be marked in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, Anzac Day commemorative services usually mirror those in New Zealand and Australia. Some organisations like the New Zealand society will hold special events and receptions for expats in London.

Royal Family members, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have also historically marked the day, with Prince William paying tribute to the “indomitable spirit” and “courage” of Australian and New Zealand forces.

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