What is ANZAC Day? We should remember in Plymouth our cousins' sacrifices .
26th March 2010
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What is ANZAC Day? We should remember in Plymouth our cousins' sacrifices .

ANZAC Day ( 25 April ) is possibly Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. Australians had, though, seen active service in the Boer War.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in these corps quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this very day.

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for just 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world and to come to the aid of the Mother Country. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that sailed out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in modernTurkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Anatolian defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated at night, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed and many wounded. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in this war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its primary military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

Plymouth people should be aware of the debt owed to our Antipodean cousins.

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