This year, Monday 25 April 2016 marks the 101st anniversary of landing of Anzac troops at Gallipoli. On this day the Australian War Memorial will be hosting two ceremonies of national significance to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of those who have served Australia during periods of war and peace.

It is often suggested that the Dawn Service observed on Anzac Day has its origins in a military routine still followed by the Australian Army. The half-light of dawn was one of the times most favoured for launching an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for battle, the stand-to was repeated at sunset.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they had felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. A dawn vigil became the basis for commemoration in several places after the war. It is difficult to say when the first dawn services were held, as many were instigated by veterans, clergymen, and civilians from all over the country. A dawn requiem mass was held at Albany as early as 1918, and a wreathlaying and commemoration took place at dawn in Toowoomba the following year. In 1927 a group of returned men returning from an Anzac Day function held the night before came upon an elderly woman laying flowers at the as yet unfinished Sydney Cenotaph at dawn. Joining her in this private remembrance, the men later resolved to institute a dawn service the following year. Thus, 150 people gathered at the Cenotaph in 1928 for a wreathlaying and two minutes’ silence. This is generally regarded as the beginning of organised dawn services. Over the years the ceremonies have developed into their modern form and have also seen an increased association with the dawn landings of 25 April 1915.

2015 Orders of service

PDF icon Order of service for Dawn Service, National Ceremony and Last Post Ceremony, Anzac Day 2015

2015 Anzac Day commemorative program

2015 Pre-Dawn Service readings

2015 Dawn Service address

Site safety

The Dawn Service is a standing ceremony conducted in the dark prior to sunrise; accordingly, the weather is likely to be cold.

We ask all visitors to be aware of their surroundings as the grounds can be uneven and may be icy or slippery in the early hours of the morning. We therefore advise caution when entering the Memorial grounds or seating and when moving around the site, particularly with the size of the crowd in attendance.

General information

  • You should allow plenty of time to travel safely to the Memorial. Use of the free shuttle service or public transport is recommended.
  • Those planning on walking to the Memorial via Anzac Parade should keep to the footpaths and remain off the road as the shuttle buses will be in operation.
  • This is an informal ceremony, with visitors standing on the Parade Ground and surrounds.
  • On-site lighting is provided until 5.25 am.
  • It is suggested that attendees wear warm clothing and bring a torch.


There is no allocated seating for the Dawn Service. Visitors are welcome to occupy the seating put in place for the National Ceremony, or they may stand on the Parade Ground. Seating is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors will be required to vacate this seating at the conclusion of the Dawn Service. Please be aware that the grounds can be uneven and may be icy or slippery in the early hours of the morning. Caution is advised when entering the site or seating.

Photographs taken at the Dawn Service

See more on our Flickr page.