Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anzac Day

the Ottoman Empire 1914 (in red)
The Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. It commemorates every year on April 25th the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (A.N.Z.A.C.) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire (today Turkey) during World War I. It now more broadly remembers all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

World War I broke out in 1914, when Germany declared war on the whole British Empire. Soon the Turkey formed an alliance with Germany, becoming a threat for the whole Mediterranean area. France and Great Britain decided to lead their troops into an expedition in order to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and in this way, open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. This strait was located on the Turkish territory and marked the border between Europe and Asia, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. On the 25th April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Gallipoli. This Corps was made up of 13.000 Australians, and 8.000 New Zealanders, and supposed to attack the Turks on the North, while the French and British had to attack on the South.
The campaign lasted 8 months, but neither the Allies, nor the Turks won the strait. After severe lost on both side, the total evacuation of the peninsula was demanded, without any winner.  8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders died in the fighting.
Australians commemorating on April 25th
Australia lost more soldiers in WWI in proportion to its population than any other country, and many of them during this battle. 25 April soon became the day on which Australians and New Zealanders remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in that battle, in that war, but also in all other conflicts through whole History. The Anzac Day is probably one of the most important Remembrance Days and national occasions in both Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, and in Bourail (New Caledonia). The Anzac Day not only commemorates dead soldiers, but also honours returned servicemen and servicewomen.

Anzac Day today
Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The day has gone through many changes since then.  Modern Anzac Day's ceremonies have two major parts: one at dawn and another, more public event, later in the morning.
red poppies as a symbol of remembrance
On Anzac Day, which is a public holiday in most parts of the countries, people bring red poppies and rosemary to memorials and graves of the dead soldiers. The tradition is to turn oneself to face the West, where the sun sets, and have a minute of silence.
In Australia and New Zealand, marches by veterans of past wars, as well as by current serving members of ‘Australia/ New Zealand Defence Force’ are organised in the main streets of many cities. Those marches are supported by Scouts and Guides and other uniformed service groups.
For many Australians and especially New Zealanders, the Anzac Day is not only a day of commemoration, but also an opportunity to speak about their national identity.

Josua Dahmen and Sophie de Streel

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