I hope my Australian friends forgive in that I don’t think I will be able to do ANZAC Day justice but because I love Australia and all that ANZAC Day stands for, I really do think it’s still fashionable to remember the fallen.
Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand,a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name.
After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of Anzac Day remembrance during the 1920s.
Anzac Day is a national public holiday and is considered by many Australians to be one of the most solemn days of the year. Marches by veterans from all past wars, as well as current serving members of the Australian Defence Force and Reserves, with allied veterans as well as the Australian Defence Force Cadets and Australian Air League and supported by members of Scouts Australia, Guides Australia, and other uniformed service groups, are held in cities and towns nationwide. The Anzac Day March from each state capital is televised live with commentary. These events are generally followed by social gatherings of veterans, hosted either in a public house or in an RSL club, often including a traditional Australian gambling game called two-up, which was an extremely popular pastime with ANZAC soldiers. The importance of this tradition is demonstrated by the fact that though most Australian states have laws forbidding gambling outside of designated licensed venues, on Anzac Day it is legal to play “two-up”.
Despite federation being proclaimed in Australia in 1901, it is argued that the “national identity” of Australia was largely forged during the violent conflict of World War I, and the most iconic event in the war for most Australians was the landing at Gallipoli. Dr. Paul Skrebels of the University of South Australia has noted that Anzac Day has continued to grow in popularity; even the threat of a terrorist attack at the Gallipoli site in 2004 did not deter some 15,000 Australians from making the pilgrimage to Turkey to commemorate the fallen ANZAC troops.
During many wars, Australian rules football matches have been played overseas in places like northern Africa, Vietnam, and Iraq as a celebration of Australian culture and as a bonding exercise between soldiers. In 1975, the VFL/AFL first commemorated Anzac Day and the Anzac spirit with a match of Australian rules football between Essendon and Carlton in a one-off match in front of a large crowd of 77,770 at VFL Park, Waverley, with Essendon coming out winners.
The modern-day tradition began in 1995 and is played every year between traditional AFL rivals Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG. This annual blockbuster is often considered the biggest match of the AFL season outside of the finals, sometimes drawing bigger crowds than all but the Grand Final, and often selling out in advance; a record crowd of 94,825 people attended the inaugural match in 1995. The Anzac Medal is awarded to the player in the match who best exemplifies the Anzac Spirit – skill, courage, self-sacrifice, teamwork and fair play.
For those who know me, they know I am a HUGE fan of Australian Rules Football, and in fact a supporter of Collingwood. Which means just like every year since I have moved to Australia, I will be sitting with nearly 100,000 other people at the MCG, enjoying the freedom that others have given so much to ensure.
Thank you to all the ANZACs past and present. In my heart, mind and spirit, it is still fashionable to remember.
Lest We Forget.
- Anzac Day (musingsaboutbuggerall.wordpress.com)
- Old Diggers shine on new-look Anzac Day (news.theage.com.au)
- Marines to march on Anzac Day in Darwin (news.com.au)
- Anzac Day: Memorialising mateship (australiantimes.co.uk)
- Anzac Day tomorrow (johnsonbarbara.wordpress.com)