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The First World War & the Beginning of the ANZAC Tradition

On August 4, 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. Australia then in turn quickly pledged its support for its ally and volunteer recruiting then began shortly after. The Australian Defence Act (1903) stipulated that the government could only use conscripts to fight on Australian soil and could not send them overseas. Enlistment stayed voluntary for the duration of the war.

During the duration of the First World War (1914-1918), Australia’s population was approximately 4.9 million.[2] Around 420,000 Australians voluntarily enlisted for service in the war, representing 38.7 per cent of the male population aged 18 to 44. A staggering number.[3]


Volunteers being sworn in at Port Macquarie Showground (State Library of NSW)[7]



Some of the first major actions of the war included:

11 September 1914: Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed at Rabaul in German New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea).
17 September 1914: The contingent took possession of German New Guinea at Toma.
October 1914: The neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago were captured.
25 April 1915: The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) landed on Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). They were accompanied by ally troops from New Zealand, Britain, and France.
20 December 1915: The campaign at Gallipoli ends and all troops are evacuated.
July 1916: Australian troops arrive in France and then participate in the battle of the Somme, a major British offensive. While engaged in the war on the western front, over 5,000 causalities are suffered at the Battle of Fromelles.
1917: Australian troops fight in key battles including Bullecourt, Messines and Passchendaele.
4 July, 1918: The Australians capture Hamel.
30 October, 1918: Turkey signs an armistice.
11 November 1918: Germany surrenders.[4][5][6]

At the conclusion of the war; of the approximately 420,000 enlistees, 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded or taken as prisoners.[4]


A platoon of the 13th Battalion, 4th Brigade, AIF at Gallipoli. The platoon is awaiting an address by its commander Captain Joseph Lee, in the Sphinx Gully, probably prior to the brigade's night march on 6-7 August 1915 to attack Kocitemenepe (AWM P02536.002)[8]


Commemorating ANZAC Day

The word ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers who fought together became known as Anzacs, exemplifying a tradition of service, selflessness and mateship. April 25th was officially designated ANZAC Day in 1916 by Australia and New Zealand. It is a national holiday in both countries and a day of remembrance. Commemorative services are held each year at dawn, the time of the original Gallipoli landing.

With the start of the Second World War and other conflicts including those of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq; ANZAC Day has been expanded to include remembrance of all servicemen and women who have given so much to Australia.

The health and medical ANZAC Research Institute was named after and in remembrance of this tradition. This ANZAC Day we commemorate and learn from the sacrifice of so many Anzacs who gave so much.





[1] http://guides.sl.nsw.gov.au/content.php?pid=489033&sid=4348340
[2] Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Official yearbook of the Commonwealth of Australia, no. 12, 1919 (Melbourne: Albert J. Mullett, 1919).
[3] E. Scott, Australia during the war: the official history of Australia in the war of 1914–1918, vol. XI (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1941, p. 889).
[4] https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1/
[5] https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/gallipoli/
[6] http://www.army.gov.au/Our-history/History-in-Focus/WWI-The-Western-Front
[7] http://www.acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=393082
[8] https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02536.002