Anzac Day


Lest we forget – Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.” The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for the Australian identity.

The origins of Anzac Day

Anzac Cove encampment, Gallipoli 1915

Originally, the ANZACs who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War were honoured in Australian and New Zealand on the 25th April.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition with the goal to capture the Dardanelles Strait and the Ottoman Empire’s capital Istanbul. This would have opened the way to the Black Sea for the Allied fleets. The ANZAC soldiers landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, and met a strong resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk), ally of Germany. The campaign quickly became a stalemate and dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the surviving Allied forces were evacuated. The campaign led to major casualties for both sides and included 8,709 dead soldiers from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand.

The daily lists of fatalities appearing in the newspapers back home became a source of great pride in our country’s sacrifice and contribution, as well as sorrow.

The landing of the ANZAC force at Gallipoli and the daily lists of fatalities appearing in the newspaper back home gave rise to deep sorrow as well as a source of great pride in the sacrifice and contribution of Australia and New-Zealand. Consequently, the date of the 25th April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

The meaning of ANZAC

Coloured illustration of Anzac troops after the fighting at Gallipoli during World War I

The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and soldiers were known as Anzacs.

Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand whose soldiers fought alongside. As the two countries were dominions of the British Empire when the war broke out in 1914, they share the same remembrance day and make reference to both countries in its name.

Today, Anzac Day is a national public holiday considered as one of the most solemn day of the year by many Australians, along Australia Day (26th January).

On Anzac Day, veterans from all past wars as well as current Australian soldiers march through the streets. Commemorative services are organised at dawn  in cities and towns throughout Australia, referring to the time oft he original landing at Gallipoli. Then, a national ceremony is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra at 10.15am in the presence of the Prime minister and the Governor General. These commemorative events are usually followed by social gatherings of veterans in a public house or in an RSL club.

Anzac Day 2015

Hyde Park Sydney, Shrine of Remembrance © French Moments

On the 25th April 2015, the Australian War Memorial (Canberra) will run commemorative activities taking place throughout the Anzac Day long weekend in 2015, to mark the centenary of the landing on Gallipoli. These will be held in addition to the Dawn Service and National Ceremony.

Red poppies

The red poppies (or Flanders poppies) are a symbol of remembrance of ANZAC soldiers who have died during wartime. During the First World War, the flower was among the first to flower in the battlefields and trenches of northern France and Belgium.

The red colour is associated to the blood of the soldiers dying on the ground and the sacrifice of shed blood. Red poppies were mentioned in the famous yet moving poem by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae “In Flanders Fields” written on the battlefield of Ypres in 1915 (see next tab).

Today, artificial poppies made of light cloth or paper are often worn by veterans as well as by Australian civilians on Remembrance Day (11th November).

In France, the equivalent to the red poppy is the blue cornflower (Bleuet de France) is the symbol of memory and solidarity for veterans, victims of war, widows, and orphans. Like the red poppy, the cornflower was one of the few flowers to spring up in the devastated lands of the battlefields in northern France and Belgium.

In Flanders Fields

This war poem was written in 1915 by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae who was moved by the sight of poppies on the battlefields at Ypres, Belgium.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Anzac Biscuit

An Anzac biscuit is a sweet biscuit prepared in Australia and New Zealand from rolled oats, flour, desiccated coconut, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda and boiling water. The popular Anzac biscuits are linked to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed in Gallipoli during the First World War.

It is believed that the biscuits were sent by wives to soldiers abroad because the ingredients did not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during the long journey by sea to Europe.

Today, Anzac biscuits are manufactured commercially for retail sale or are prepared at home.

English-French Vocabulary

Villers-Bretonneux © Aspdin- licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs

  • army = armée (f)
  • Australia = Australie (f)
  • Australian and New Zealand Army Corps = Corps d’armée australien et néo-zélandais (m)
  • battlefields = champs de bataille (m)
  • biscuit = biscuit (m)
  • Black Sea = Mer Noire (f)
  • British Empire = empire britannique (m)
  • ceremony = cérémonie (f)
  • to commemorate = commémorer (v)
  • cornflower = bleuet (m)
  • Dardanelles Strait = détroit des Dardanelles (m)
  • Germany = Allemagne (f)
  • First World War = Première Guerre Mondiale (f)
  • New-Zealand = Nouvelle-Zélande (f)
  • Ottoman Empire = Empire Ottoman (m)
  • red poppy = coquelicot (m)
  • soldier = soldat (m)
  • Turkey = Turquie (f)
  • veteran = ancien combattant (m)
  • war = guerre (f)


More information about Anzac Day in Australia.


About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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