Commemorating Anzac Day: In Their Own Words

Importance of Anzac Day to veterans

On 25 April 1915, soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This marked the start of the Allied campaign to defeat the Ottoman Empire in World War I. For over 8 months, the Allied forces faced fierce resistance from Turkish defenders. In the end, the Gallipoli Campaign failed in its military objective. The actions of Australians in the battles at Gallipoli helped to shape what became known as the Anzac legend.

This day is an opportunity to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all Australians in wars, conflicts and peace operations. More than 1.5 million people have served our country. Anzac Day holds different significance for different people, especially veterans. By watching these veteran interviews, you will investigate how we commemorate Anzac Day and why it is a national day of remembrance in Australia.

Crowds of people lined up around a cenotaph and on the balcony of hotel, many of them in uniform.
Anzac Day, 1944, in Atherton, Queensland. AWM 065897

A day of remembrance

On 25 April 1916, the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand, England and by Australian troops in Egypt. Since this day, it has continued to be an important day for Australians. It is a time to honour all Australian service personnel.

Edward Chapman joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at 16. Edward talks about the importance of Anzac Day for his family and fellow veterans.

Watch the video:

Answer these questions:

  1. In this video, Edward says 'Anzac Day is a day of remembrance.' What do you think Edward wants us to remember?
  2. What aspects of Anzac Day are important to Edward?

Hear more of Edward Chapman's story.

I watched my father march

While Anzac Day is important for those who have served, it is also a significant day for their family and friends. Since the first Anzac Day in 1916, children have watched as people they know participate in a march or service. Today people of all ages take part in Anzac Day services to honour all those who served.

Jack Olsson recalls his childhood experiences of Anzac Day and his decision to join the army during the World War II.

Watch the video:

Answer these questions:

  1. How do you think watching his father march in Anzac Day services as a child impacted Jack's decision to join the army?
  2. Jack and his brother, like many other men at the time, lied about their age to join the army. What might have motivated them to do that?
  3. In the video, Jack says 'It was great fun. It's awful isn't it?'. What do you think Jack means by this?

Hear more of Jack Olsson's story.

Never miss an Anzac Day

During the 1920s, Anzac Day became a national day of commemoration. For the first time in 1927, every state in Australia observed some form of public holiday on Anzac Day. This gave all Australians the opportunity to join in services, marches and reunions.

Phyl Ahearn (nee Platt) was living in Sydney when she enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS). She talks about never missing an Anzac Day.

Watch the video:

Answer these questions:

  1. From this video, what do you think are Phyl's feelings or opinions about the army and the war?
  2. Many people would agree with Phyl that war is 'something really, really bad'. In your opinion, why do we commemorate war and conflict?
  3. Bravery was one characteristic that was used to describe the Anzacs who landed at Gallipoli and has now formed part of the Anzac legend. What other characteristics describe the Anzac spirit?

The Anzac Portal and Australian War Memorial websites can help with your research.

Discover more of Phyl Ahearn's story.

We shouldn't celebrate a defeat

The Gallipoli Campaign was ultimately a failure for the Allies during World War I, but there were many other battles where the military objective was achieved. Since World War I, Australians have been in many wars, conflicts and peace operations. Anzac Day has evolved to commemorate all the people who have served. So why do we commemorate on 25 April each year?

Alison Worrall enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) during the Second World War. She recalls how marching on Anzac Day was important to her family when she was young. Later in life, she had mixed feelings about the focus of Anzac Day.

Watch these 2 videos:

Answer these questions:

  1. What do you think Alison means when she refers to her father's 'legacy duties'? Why were these duties important to him?
  2. Given Alison's views of Anzac Day, why do you think she still attends services?
  3. Do you agree with Alison's view of Anzac Day? How do you think Australians, in general, view Anzac Day? Conduct your own research by talking to other students, teachers, family and friends to see what their views are. You may also want to do some independent research before writing your own conclusion.

Discover more of Alison Worrall's story.

The importance of Anzac Day

Anzac Day services include many symbols and traditions that form an important part of the commemoration. The timing of the dawn service is special to Anzac Day. Some of the symbols you will see at a service include wreaths, poppies, rosemary, the bugle playing the Last Post and one minute of silence. Each symbol has an important meaning.

Dave Lassam joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1978. After training to become a medic, he served in Australia and overseas, including as part of peace operations in East Timor. Dave shares what Anzac Day means to him.

Watch the video:

Answer these questions:

  1. When do we hear the words 'Lest we forget'? What do these words mean to you in relation to commemoration?
  2. In the video, Dave says that some people have the opinion that Anzac Day is glorifying the war. What do you think 'glorifying the war' means? Write your own definition.
  3. Given your experiences with Anzac Day services, do you think they commemorate or glorify war? Give at least 3 reasons for your opinion.

Hear more of Dave Lassam's story.

Curriculum notes for teachers

The videos and activities align with Year 9 History, v 9.0 Australian Curriculum.

  • The commemoration of the First World War, including different historical interpretations and debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war.
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