History of the ANZACs

Last Updated: 10th Oct 2012

ANZAC Day – 25 April – is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day.

During the 1920s, ANZAC Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War. The first year in which all the States observed some form of public holiday together on ANZAC Day was 1927. By the mid-1930s all the rituals we today associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, sly two-up games – were firmly established as part of ANZAC Day culture.

With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians lost in that war as well, and in subsequent years the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include Australians killed in all the military operations in which Australia has been involved.