ANZAC Day 2016 – Lest we forget!

This coming Monday is ANZAC day. In Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC day is observed every year on April 25th. It is a solemn national day of remembrance and commemoration.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 during WWI, in order to capture the Dardanelles. It was the first major military conflict that the ANZACs fought in. This year marks the 101st anniversary of that terrible event.

ANZAC day starts with a dawn service to remember those thousands of brave souls who lost their life during the battles of World War I. There are Dawn Service ceremonies held at hundreds of locations across Australia. There are more than 40 held in the Newcastle and Hunter region alone. The largest in Newcastle is held at Camp Shortland at Nobby’s beach. I actually attended last year, and being the 100th anniversary, there were record crowds, but it was still quite an experience.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service - Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day Dawn Service – Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day was first celebrated in 1916 however, the first organised dawn service is generally regarded as being held in 1928 where two minutes silence was observed and wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Sydney. The tradition continues and now includes the honouring all Australian service men and women who have been killed in any military operation which Australia has been involved in, with commemorative services taking place at dawn (the time of the original Gallipoli landing). Services also include the laying of wreaths, reading of letters, a bugler playing of the Last Post and a period of silence.

Following the services there is a march for service men and women (in Newcastle this occurs down Hunter Street). However, Sydney hold one of the biggest services in the country which is televised, along with the service conducted at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The day generally also includes a few beers and the playing of two-up. You’ll also see plenty of people wearing a red poppy (the Flanders Poppy is normally worn as part of the ritual of Remembrance Day (marking the Armistice of 11 November 1918), but is now becoming increasingly used as part of the ANZAC observance). It is most usual to wear a sprig of rosemary, however.

Thousands of Aussies and Kiwi’s (individuals from New Zealand) also make the trek to the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey to attend the Dawn Service at Lone Pine. I have been lucky enough to visit Gallipoli and see ANZAC cove where the troops landed and Lone Pine where many diggers are now buried.

Lone Pine - Gallipoli

Lone Pine – Gallipoli

My visit to Gallipoli was in 2006. We were there as part of a tour through Turkey, and we arrived early in the morning – the best time to get there as there was no-one else around. What an incredibly moving experience. I cannot describe how it felt to be there – it was just incredible; very solemn, awe inspiring, overwhelming, and heart-breaking. And if ever you decide to visit Gallipoli, I would recommend not going around ANZAC day; visit without the hordes of other people, take your time and really appreciate the whole experience.

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Please take the time to observe ANZAC Day and remember those who sacrificed their lives!

“THEY SHALL NOT GROW 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 SHALL REMEMBER THEM”!

More information about ANZAC Day can be found at the Australian War Memorial web site.

Memorial Day – what’s it all about?

This weekend is a long weekend in the USA with Monday being Memorial Day. This seems to be a significant holiday here – another day for Americans to demonstrate their pride in their country and pride and gratitude for those who serve, fight and die for it. There are plenty of American flags about and lots of American paraphernalia to entice consumers. So, I thought I would find out what it’s all about.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, “the most solemn of American holidays”, is a day of remembrance for those who have died whilst serving in the military for the USA. It was originally called Decoration Day and was borne out of the desire to honour the dead of the Civil War (1861-1865).

General John Logan first declared that Decoration Day would be held on 30th May 1868 (not being the anniversary of any battle in particular) where people could place flowers on, or otherwise adorn the graves of fallen soldiers.

All northern states recognised the holiday by 1890, but the south refused until after WWII when the day changed from honouring those who died in the civil war, to those who had died in any war. In 1968 Congress passed an act that would see Memorial Day celebrated on the last Monday in May, allowing for a 3 day weekend. Memorial day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May (although several of the southern states still have an additional day for honouring the Confederate dead).

The Memorial Day weekend generally also signifies the beginning of summer in the USA.

I guess an equivalent holiday would be ANZAC Day in Australia.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli peninsula (in order to capture the Dardanelles) in 1915 during WWI (the first major military conflict that the ANZACs fought in).

Lone Pine - Gallipoli

Lone Pine – Gallipoli

It was first celebrated in 1916 however, the first organised dawn service is generally regarded as being held in 1928 where two minutes silence was observed and wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Sydney. The tradition continues and now includes the honouring all Australian service men and women who have been killed in any military operation which Australia has been involved in, with commemorative services taking place at dawn (the time of the original Gallipoli landing) and includes the laying of wreaths, playing of the Last Post and a period of silence. The day also includes marches (involving past service men and women) and the playing of two-up.

More information about ANZAC Day can be found at the Australian War Memorial web site.