100th Anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Gallipoli in Turkey on the April 25, 1915 will be forever entrenched in Australian history and in its national identity. The landing marks much more than just the beginning of a fierce battle against the Ottoman Empire. 

It’s not only a story of courage and endurance, but of Australian soldiers developing a separate identity to that of the British and the birth of mateship that is now indispensable to the Australian psyche. Indeed, many view ANZAC Day as the “the birth of nationhood”.

Chronology of events
In 1914, the British Empire – and subsequently the forces of their colonies – declared war against Germany. It was supposedly the war to end all wars. Australians immediately began building a volunteer army to support the British forces. 

Towards the end of 1914, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came up with the plan to attack the Turkish army, hoping to draw in German support and weaken the Central Powers’ forces on the Eastern and Western fronts.  

The Allied Powers were aiming to pass through the Dardanelles Straits and lay siege to Constantinople (now Istanbul) to assist the Russian forces. They intended to seize the Turkish batteries on both sides of the strait and provide the Allied naval fleet a safe passageway through the Dardanelles. However, these hopes were quickly dashed when the soldiers were faced with a much harsher reality. 

Rather than the flat beach they had been expecting, the optimistic ANZAC force –were met with rugged cliff faces and a barrage of organised, well-armed Turkish soldiers who showed unrelenting force when it came to defending their homeland. Thousands of men died in those initial hours following the landing.

A stalemate was quickly reached with both sides digging kilometres of trenches and releasing an onslaught of sniper fire and shelling. By January 1916, it is estimated 8,709 Australian soldiers had been killed and more than 18,000 were wounded.  

The ANZAC spirit
Each year on April 25th, Australians and New Zealanders commemorate the anniversary of this landing and pay tribute to the “worthy sons of the empire” who bravely invaded the Gallipoli peninsula and fought valiantly in the subsequent eight-month campaign. 

Although the ANZACs were ultimately unsuccessful in their campaign, the dogged endurance and positive spirit of the soldiers allowed the newly formed nation to construct an identifiable and distinct national character that also cemented Australia’s reputation on the world stage. 

“It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity,” declared Former Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1993.

ANZAC Day is April 25
Every year on the 25th of April, many Australians descend onto beaches or memorial parks around the country for dawn services, to stand and honour the legacy of the WW1 soldiers and the ANZAC spirit. The tradition of  “standing to” commemorates the ritual of soldiers taking their assigned positions at dawn to be alert and ready for battle as the first light spread across the horizon. 

The song The Last Post was used in battle to give one last warning to soldiers still at large that it was time to retire for the evening. The song is played at memorial services as a final farewell, symbolising that the duty of the dead is over and that they can now rest in peace. 

ANZAC Day centenary in 2015
The 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli is a monumental commemoration that allows us to reflect on 100 years of army service, the Australian national identity and the key elements of the ANZAC spirit. 

There are hundreds of services taking place all over the country dedicated to honouring the bravery and determination of the ANZACs. Check out your state branch’s RSL site to find your nearest service. 

The Gallipoli service in Turkey is the largest ANZAC Day commemoration held outside of Australia. Many Australians are travelling to Gallipoli to experience firsthand the soil of turmoil and the resting ground of the fallen Australian soldiers. 

For the popular Gallipoli centenary service, only visitors holding valid attendance passes – which have already been issued through the Australian or New Zealand ballot – will be able to attend. If you were unsuccessful in your application, the ABC will be broadcasting the Gallipolli Dawn Service live on ANZAC Day.  

If you are keen on visiting the original resting place this year, you can attend the Centenary of the Battle of Lone Pine at the Lone Pine Cemetery in Gallipoli on the August 6, 2015. 

For those commemorating the event at home, The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience is a special travelling exhibition touring the nation from September 2015 to April 2016. Visit the ANZAC Centenary website to find out when it will be visiting a city near you.   

Regardless of how you celebrate the ANZAC Centenary, take a moment or two to honour and appreciate the bravery, ingenuity, endurance and mateship of the ANZAC soldiers, qualities which have since become engrained in the Australian national identity. 

How will you be commemorating ANZAC day? Let us know below.