A History of ANZAC DAY

The Dawn Service

A History of ANZAC DAY

A History of ANZAC Day

ANZAC. THE tradition, AS WE KNOW IT was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. THIS CAMPAIGN lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties. The word ‘ANZAC’ WAS ADDED to the Australian and New Zealand vocabularies. In 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. In that year, 25 April was officially named ‘ANZAC Day’ by the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce.

By the 1920s, ANZAC Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. All States had designated ANZAC Day as a public holiday. Commemoration of ANZAC Day continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s with World War II veterans joining marches across the country.

In the ensuing decades veterans from the conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam joined the march along with those who had served with our allies and in peace keeping missions. During the 1960s and 1970s the number of people attending ANZAC Day marches decreased. However, in the 1990s there was a resurgence of interest in ANZAC Day, with attendances at marches and services, particularly by young people, increased across Australia. This resurgence has continued in the 21st century with the focus on our contemporary veterans from campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and our immediate regions.


The Dawn Service

(The following text is from The Australian War Memorial Website www.awm.gov.au)


 The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine, which is still observed by the Australian Army today. The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers' eyes and from the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons. This was, and still is, known as "Stand-to". It was also repeated at sunset.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s; the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers, the dawn service was for old soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond. Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to "stand to" and two minutes of silence would


follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the "Last Post" and then concluded the service with "Reveille". In more recent times the general public has been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever.

Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers. 

The Returned & Services League Victorian Branch is grateful for the support provided by the Government of Victoria, City of Melbourne, Australian Defence Force, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, Scouting Victoria and many more volunteers who unselfishly give their time to make ANZAC Day ceremonies the success they are.