The word ANZAC, or also Anzac, was first used in Cairo in 1915 to designate the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The word has since broadened to include all Australians, men, women, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, who have served Australia in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
The story of ANZAC began on the 25 April 1915 when the first Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at a cove at Gallipoli, Turkey, that they named ANZAC Cove. The soldiers’ wrote about their experiences in Gallipoli and this account was published in 1916 in The Anzac Book. Where originally the word Anzac had referred to the corps and the Gallipoli staging point, the word shortly came to also mean the soldiers, the ANZACs.
ANZAC is significant to Australians because it is seen as a war that defined our nation. The First World War was one of the first conflicts that Australia participated in as a federated nation, where men and women served as Australians. These servicemen and women represented their nation, Australia, in its own right and no longer as a British colony. The qualities displayed by Australians in this and following wars became known as the ANZAC spirit and these traits became part of the emergent construction of our national identity – bravery, courage, sacrifice, good humour and mateship.
During the First World War nearly 60,000 Australians died; this was a dramatic loss of life for a new nation with a population that was only about 4.5 million. Of the some 104,000 Victorians who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, about 19,000 were killed in action or died of their wounds. More on Victoria’s involvement in the war can be found at Anzac Centenary 2014-2018 Sharing Victoria’s Stories. There was a generation of young men who did not come home from this war – in some families no sons survived and many regional and rural areas suffered a similar loss – this is why this war was known at the time as the Great War.
The ANZAC story as we know it today comes from the account written by the war historian Charles Bean in the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 published in the two decades following the war.
ANZAC Day in 2015 will be the most important day to commemorate the First World War for many Australians. For more information see the federal government’s dedicated Anzac Centenary website and the National Commission’s report on How Australia may commemorate the ANZAC Centenary.
These dates will also be significant in the ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018:
4 August 2014 – 100 years since the commencement of the First World War
25 April 2015 – 100 years since the first landings by Australian, New Zealand and Allied forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey
25 April 2018 – 100 years since Australian and Allied forces cleared Villers-Bretonneux, France, of enemy troops
11 November 2018 – 100 years since the Armistice was signed by Germany, marking the end of the First World War.
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