Anzac Day

Today is the Anzac day holiday here in New Zealand, and also in Australia. It marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

2779 New Zealanders died in this campaign, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, which was a military disaster. 44,000 allied soldiers died, along with 87,000 turks, and at the armistice in November 1918 Galipoli was still held by Turkey.

The day is marked here with dawn services of remembrance, at war memorials around the country; prominently featuring current and retired service personnel and their families. This is a major event in the New Zealand calender, whilst armistice day is not. Indeed, so important is the actual date, that the New Zealand government passed a law in 1949 to prevent the national holiday being “monday’ised”. It fell on a Tuesday this year, and Monday was a normal working day; even if many did take it as holiday to give themselves a long weekend.

As much as a day of remembrance for the fallen, Anzac day in New Zealand is also a day when New Zealand remembers its emergence onto the world stage as a significant entity in its own right for the first time. In 1919 the New Zealand prime  minister signed the Treaty of Versailles, giving New Zealand membership of the League of Nations in its own right. Australia was also a signatory, but not, for instance, India. In 1939 the New Zealand government would make its own decision to enter the Second World War.