What it Means to be Australian on Anzac Day

Anzac Day – 25th AprilAustralian

Acronym for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

A brief history lesson…

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, Turkey, where Australia and New Zealand suffered heavy casualties.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk). What had been planned as a bold strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships.

The Allied casualties included 21,255 from the United Kingdom, of which were some 4000 Irish soldiers from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an estimated 10,000 dead soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Though the Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the actions of the Australian and New Zealand troops during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an “Anzac legend or Anzac Spirit” became an important part of the national identity in both countries. This has shaped the way their citizens have viewed both their past and their understanding of the present. The heroism of the soldiers in the failed Gallipoli campaign made their sacrifices iconic in New Zealand memory, and is often credited with securing the psychological independence of the nation.


Australians & New Zealanders today are still shaped by the ANZAC Legend

The much documented qualities of the Anzacs include endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, larrikinism, and mateship.  According to this concept, the soldiers are perceived to have been innocent and fit, stoical and laconic, irreverent in the face of authority, naturally egalitarian and disdainful of British class differences.

Mateship and good humour in the face of adversity is something that I believe all Australians are known for.  And they are ideals that even today we uphold and admire.


So what does all that mean for an Australian on Anzac Day?

The Dawn ServiceAustralian

It means getting out of your toasty warm bed at just before 4am to attend your local Dawn Service.  Generally held at a significant war memorial or cemetery, we stand in the pre-dawn air and wait for 4.28am – the exact time that the Anzacs landed on Gallipoli beach.  It is a very moving service with introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, recitation, the playing of the Last Post, a minute of silence, Reveille, and the playing of both the New Zealand and Australian national anthems.  There is usually never a dry eye while the Last Post is playing.

The service is generally followed by a traditional “Gunfire” Breakfast – coffee laced with rum!

Many Australians and New Zealanders also make the pilgrimage to Anzac Cove at Gallipoli for the Dawn Service they hold there.  It’s a pilgrimage I have always wanted to take and will one day.  To stand where the Anzacs stood and fight with every last ounce of strength would be potent.


The MarchAustralian

Every city and town in Australia has a Anzac Day Parade – a march of past and current service men.  Crowds at the Anzac Day parades has grown and grown in the last few years.  In Brisbane last year the number of spectators were somewhere in the thousands.  But the hard part of watching the parade is seeing the number of past soldiers dwindle year after year until all that is matching behind the individual banners are family members bearing their departed father/grandfather/mother/grandmothers medals.  It’s bittersweet I guess because at the same time it’s beautiful to see the little ones wearing their granddad’s medals, their little chests swelling with pride.


The games of Two-Up and having a drink for departed mates and family members

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated “spinner” throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players bet on whether the coins will fall with both heads (obverse) up, both tails (reverse) up, or with one coin a head and one a tail (known as “odds”).  This was the traditional game of the Anzacs, even though it was illegal to play gambling games, a blind eye was turned.  So today every pub and bar in Australia has rounds of two-up playing all day accompanied by raising a glass and remembering those that never made it back or having a laugh with your mates from the battleground that you now only catch up with on 25th April.


Making Anzac Biscuits

This is my favourite Anzac Day activity!

Army Biscuits, known as Anzac wafers or tiles, were a hard biscuit eaten by soldiers as a bread substitute.  They were often ground up and eaten as porridge.  The Anzac biscuits we are familiar with today was developed by the wives and girlfriends of our soldiers.  A sweet biscuit made of rolled oats and bound with golden syrup or treacle (eggs were scarce during the war) were sent to the frontline by  ships of the Merchant Navy.

Anzac Biscuits

From an original recipe provided by Mr Bob Lawson, an ANZAC present at the Gallipoli Landing

  • 1 Cup Plain Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 1 Cup Coconut
  • 4 Ounces Butter (115g)
  • 1 Tbsp Treacle (Golden Syrup)
  • 2 Tbsps Boiled Water (add a little more if mixture is dry)
  • 1 tsp Bi-Carbonate Soda
  1. Grease tray and pre-heat oven to 180degC (356degF)
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Melt together butter and treacle. Combine water and bi-carbonate soda – add to butter mixture.
  4. Mix butter mixture and dry ingredients.
  5. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto tray.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack.


For me personally…

It means remembering my granddad who fought in Papua New Guinea during WWII.  My mother tells me that he barely ever spoke about his time in the war.  The few things he did mention are horrible and it makes me sad that he had to see the things he saw.  I remember when I was a little girl going into the city with my parents to watch the parade and seeing my grandfather marching behind the 61st Battalion banner.  My mother was shocked to see him marching as that was completely out of the ordinary for a man who never spoke of the war and very rarely caught up with anyone he knew from war times.

The 61st Battalion is fairly early in the parade so I never have to wait long to see it.  But I cry now when I do see it as all the soldiers from that battalion are gone or too old to march.  My granddad died in December 2000 so seeing his battalion always makes me think of him and miss him.


This Anzac Day I will be making Anzac biscuits.  Having a rum and coke and raising a glass to my Granddad and all those who fought and still fight for our freedom.  And telling my boys about the Anzacs and why they should be proud to be Australians.




Anzac stood, and still stands, for reckless valor in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.

– Charles Bean



History of the Anzacs was provided by Wikipedia.


Join the journey
Sign up to our newsletter
We respect your privacy.

16 thoughts on “What it Means to be Australian on Anzac Day

  1. Thank you for this article and for the Anzac Biscuits recipe. I didn’t know much about Anzac day…this was very informative. 🙂

  2. Wow Leah, I feel so naive as I did not even know Anzac day existed. I learned so much from your post and want to try the recipe. I will say a special prayer to your granddad; I am sure he was an exemplary man.

    1. I know quite of my readers are not Australian, so that’s why I went into such detail. You have Memorial Day which is the same sort of thing? Thank you for the prayer, he was a great man.

  3. This was an incredibly informative post. I wanted so badly to make it to the dawn service this year. Unfortunately some health stuff got in the way and I was unable to. Next year for sure!

  4. I definitely think it is important to celebrate the soldiers of your country! My Grandpa was a veteran of WW II and did not speak of the war much either. Enjoy your biscuits and cheers to both of our grandfathers!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this and learning something new about your country!! The biscuits sound yummy… I’ll try them for my son 🙂

  6. This is really neat! I love hearing about hpw other’s live. Those biscuits sound soooo good! I’m a sucker for anything with coconut!

  7. I wasn’t familiar with Anzac Day. I learned so much from your post. Thank you! What is the Treacle Golden Syrup in the biscuits?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.