The First Anzac Day in 1916

The First Anzac Day in 1916

The historic landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 was the starting point for a national tradition in both counties – known as ANZAC Day.

The first ANZAC Day was commemorated on Tuesday, 25 April 1916, and was marked with a variety of ceremonies held both in Australia and England, where some 2000 Anzac troops marched through the streets of London. A memorial service followed at Westminster Abbey that was attended by King George V and his wife, Queen Mary.

There was also a sports day conducted at the Australian Army Camp in Egypt.

Marches were held across Australian capital cities with 4000 returned soldiers parading down Macquarie Street in Sydney, followed by a motorcade of 50 cars carrying their wounded comrades accompanied by nursing staff. This culminated in a large commemoration ceremony held at the Sydney Town Hall in George Street.

In Adelaide “The Register” newspaper reported that
“On the tick of 9 O’clock on Tuesday morning all trains and tramcars came to a standstill, and remained stationary for two minutes, while passengers stood and gave cheers for the King, the gallant Anzacs and the Empire”.

The scene in Brisbane was also impressive with the occasion used as a recruiting drive. Mounted soldiers rode past the Brisbane General Post office that was “festooned with flags, banners and a large sign with the words “Enlist Now”.

A wave of national pride swept the country, with the Anzac landing seen as a defining moment in the history of both Australia and New Zealand, and with the eventual defeat described as a “magnificent one”.

The 25th April was officially declared a public holiday in New Zealand in 1920, and in 1921, at the State Premiers Conference, it was decided that Australia would also officially observe ANZAC Day on this same date each year.


Image caption: This printed souvenir programme was made for the first Anzac Day ceremony after the end of World War One in 1919.
Courtesy: Australian War Memorial.