The first anniversary of Anzac Day

23 April 2008 by Pen Roberts

For all Australians, Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance and commemoration. Looking back to the landing at Gallipoli at dawn on 25th April 1915, what is extraordinary is the speed with which that day became known as Anzac Day in Australia. The event was so significant that within less than a year the Returned Services Association of New South Wales was raising funds for an Anzac Day Memorial, and the Queensland Department of Public Instruction had already published a text for students entitled ‘Anzac Day'.

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In 1916 commemorative services were held across the Commonwealth. In London, that day ‘Being the First Anniversary of the Landing at Gallipoli' as it was referred to in England, was commemorated with a memorial service held at Westminster Abbey. It was attended by King George V, Queen Mary, and General Sir (later Field Marshal Lord) William Birdwood, commander of the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli.

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A souvenir paper napkin lists the itinerary for the day which included a march by the Australian and New Zealand troops, and the commemorative service followed by lunch at the Hotel Cecil. Mr Billy Hughes was on hand to present medals later that day at His Majesty's Theatre.

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By April 1916, Australian troops were already fighting in the trenches on the Western Front, and were to remain there for at least another gruelling two years.