Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Anzac Day occurs on 25 April each year - it commemorates all of New Zealand's war dead...
The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians. To this day, Australia also marks the events of 25 April. Among the dead were 2721 New Zealanders, almost one in four of those who served on Gallipoli.
It may have led to a military defeat, but for many New Zealanders then and since, the Gallipoli landings meant the beginning of something else – a feeling that New Zealand had a role as a distinct nation, even as it fought on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.
Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The day has gone through many changes since then. The ceremonies that are held at war memorials up and down New Zealand, or in places overseas where New Zealanders gather, remain rich in tradition and ritual befitting a military funeral.
Support for Anzac Day within New Zealand has been growing in recent years, and increasing numbers of young people have become not only interested in our past, but are also supporting their families by attending dawn parades and other commemorative activities. Many younger New Zealanders have been attending the ceremonies at Gallipoli in Turkey, the scene of the landings at what is now called Anzac Cove.
Anzac Day is an opportunity to remember the sacrifices made by our young servicemen and women in all wars since the Gallipoli campaign in the First World, 1914-18, the Second World War, 1939-45, and the Korean War in the early 1950's, the Malayan emergency in the early 1960's,the Vietnam War from the mid 1960's to early 1970's, and a number of other conflicts including East Timor and Afghanistan. So far there have been no serious injuries or deaths in the latter, but the longer they become involved, the chances are increased. Whenever and wherever we will always remember them!