Things you should know about Anzac Day & the Battle of Canakkale

Every year, solemn commemorations take place on the Gallipoli Peninsula to honor the martyrs of World War I. The campaign that unfolded there was both highly strategic and immensely bloody, altering the course of the war and claiming numerous lives. Presently, Turks, Anzacs, and individuals from other nations come together annually to remember and pay tribute to their fallen heroes through the lighting of candles, prayers, and acts of respect. The significance of Anzac Day extends beyond mere remembrance of the war’s destructive consequences; it has evolved into a unifying symbol that transcends former enmities, allowing adversaries to find solace in shared sorrow.


1. What is Anzac Day and why is it celebrated?

First and foremost, ‘ANZAC’ stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The abbreviation ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Military Corps, whose soldiers were known as the Anzacs. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. These became known as Anzacs and the pride they took in that name continues to this day.

Today, Anzac Day is a National Day of Remembrance celebrated by Australia and New Zealand. Australians and New Zealanders who fought in all wars are commemorated on Anzac Day. Anzac Day is celebrated on 25 April each year.

A painting about the Battle of the Chunuk Bair

2. What is the history behind the Anzac Day?

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were a part of the Allied Powers, made an expedition around the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to enter the Black Sea for the Allied Powers. Allied Powers were consisted of 3 countries; UK, Russia and France. When the war broke out Australia had been a federal state for only 13 years and its government was eager to prove Australian strength and independence, eager to build a reputation. When Britain declared war on 1914, Australia was automatically under the same auspices on the side of the Commonwealth. In 1915, the Anzacs were given the task of besieging the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to clear the Dardanelles of the Allied Passage. The main goal was to conquer Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire – a German ally.

 ANZAC forces landed to Gallipoli on April 25th, but were heavily routed by the Ottoman Army, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The purpose of the Entente Powers was to defeat the Ottoman troops and disable them in the war.

The plan, which was supposed to be carried out very quickly, lasted as long as 8 months. Many Australian soldiers, 8,000 to be precise, and Turkish soldiers were killed in this conflict, and they experienced many difficulties during those 8 months.

 After the remaining soldiers returned home, they complained for a long time about the fallen soldiers, and the battle of Gallipoli had a great impact on Australia.

Indian and Anzac troops at Anzac Cove, 1915
Indian and Anzac troops at Anzac Cove, 1915

 At the end of 1915, the Allied forces had to withdraw from Gallipoli due to heavy losses. The Allies lost more than 56,000 soldiers. From these soldiers, 8,709 were Australians and 2,721 were New Zealanders.

At dawn on April 25, the Anzacs decide to raise a white flag. This event marks a turning point in the history of both countries. In this regard, Australians and New Zealanders admitted the mistake of waging war against the Turks.

Since then, April 25 has become a very important date for the Australian nation, and although the original plan was not achieved – which involved the conquest of Gallipoli, the battle left a strong impact on Australian national consciousness and shaped Australia’s past and future.

In 1985, the Turkish government named the bay by the Anzacs who landed in Çanakkale as Anzac Cove.

For Australians, this is a day to remember many sides of the war, leading their nation to a firmer, more peaceful and stable future.

Therefore, in 1934, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk claimed the following words for the Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers who stepped into the skies of Gallipoli for the first time. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934. sent a letter of gratitude and empathy to all mothers of Anzac soldiers. He said;

“Those heroes that shed their blood

And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore, rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmet’s to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears,

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well.”

These words are also written on the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk monument in Canberra, the capital of Australia.

3. How is Anzac Day celebrated in Canakkale and Turkey?

Anzac Day remembrance is usually taking two forms. Commemorative services are held at dawn- the time of the original landing in Gallipoli, all across the nation. Afterwards, ex-servicemen and women meet to participate in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centers.

Commemorations are more formal and are held at war memorials around the country. A typical Anzac Day includes the following features: an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem. After the Memorial’s ceremony, families place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honor, as they also do after Remembrance Day services.

Rosemary is also traditionally worn on Anzac Day, and sometimes also on Remembrance Day. Rosemary has particular significance for Australians as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula. Since ancient times, this aromatic herb has been believed to have properties to improve the memory.

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4. In which countries is Anzac Day celebrated?

Anzac Day is celebrated in Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue and Pitcairn Islands. Its commemorations are also held in Çanakkale every year. Anzac Day was also a public holiday in Papue New Guinea and Samoa in previous years.

We will continue to remember

This National Day of Remembrance is one of the highest moments in our and their history; Remembering those who fought for our freedom, our rights and our country.

Whether you wear medals that grandparents received during the war, poppies or sprigs of rosemary, in those moments we all unite as one, as we remember those who fell.

Not to forget.

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