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Uncovering the Fascinating Fun Facts About Anzac Day

Exploring the lesser-known aspects and intriguing stories behind Anzac Day, a cornerstone of Australian and New Zealand history and culture

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  • 6 min read

Anzac Day, observed on April 25th each year, is a solemn day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders, honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those who served in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). This significant day commemorates the landing of the ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I, a campaign that left an indelible mark on the national consciousness of both countries.


The landing marked the beginning of a brutal and protracted battle that resulted in heavy casualties but also forged a powerful legacy of courage and camaraderie. While the day is marked with moving ceremonies, military marches, and moments of profound reflection, there are many fascinating and lesser-known facts about Anzac Day that add depth to its significance. Beyond the well-known rituals, a tapestry of unique traditions, surprising origins, and cultural impacts reveals the full richness of this commemoration.

The Origin of the Anzac Biscuit

One of the most beloved traditions associated with Anzac Day is the baking and consumption of Anzac biscuits. These sweet, oat-based cookies have a history intertwined with the soldiers themselves. Contrary to popular belief, Anzac biscuits were not sent to the front lines because they kept well during long voyages.


Instead, they were initially made by families and sold at fetes and public events to raise funds for the war effort. The recipe, which includes rolled oats, sugar, flour, butter, golden syrup, and desiccated coconut, has remained largely unchanged since the early 20th century. Today, Anzac biscuits are a symbol of the home front’s contribution to the war and are enjoyed by many on Anzac Day as a tribute to the soldiers’ sacrifices.

Dawn Service: A Tradition Rooted in Military Routine

The Dawn Service is a pivotal part of Anzac Day commemorations, drawing thousands of people to war memorials across Australia and New Zealand. The origin of this tradition is deeply rooted in military routine. During World War I, soldiers in the trenches were woken before dawn to stand in silence as a precaution against enemy attacks, which were often launched in the early hours.


This moment of vigilance and quiet reflection evolved into the modern Dawn Service, a poignant ceremony that begins with the sounds of a bugle playing the “Last Post” and is followed by a minute of silence. The service culminates with the “Reveille,” symbolizing the dawn of a new day and the hope of peace.

The Role of Animals in Anzac History

Animals played a significant role in the Gallipoli campaign and other battles involving the ANZACs. Horses, donkeys, and camels were vital for transporting supplies and wounded soldiers across difficult terrains. One of the most famous animals is “Murphy,” the donkey used by Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick to carry wounded soldiers from the front lines to medical aid stations.


Simpson and his donkey became legendary for their bravery and tireless efforts under fire, embodying the ANZAC spirit of selflessness and courage. Today, the story of Simpson and his donkey is commemorated in numerous memorials and serves as a reminder of the essential roles animals played in supporting the soldiers.

The International Reach of Anzac Day

While Anzac Day is primarily observed in Australia and New Zealand, its reach extends far beyond these shores. Ceremonies are held in many countries around the world, including Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and even as far afield as Antarctica. In Gallipoli, Turkey, where the original landings took place, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to attend services at Anzac Cove.


These international commemorations highlight the profound global impact of the ANZACs’ actions and the shared history that binds nations together. The presence of these ceremonies worldwide serves as a powerful reminder of the deep respect and recognition accorded to the ANZACs’ sacrifices on an international scale.

The Evolving Nature of Anzac Day

Over the years, Anzac Day has evolved to include the commemoration of all Australian and New Zealand military personnel who have served and died in various conflicts. Initially focused solely on the Gallipoli campaign, the day now honors service members from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more recent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This evolution reflects a broader recognition of the ongoing contributions and sacrifices made by military personnel throughout history. It underscores the enduring legacy of bravery, resilience, and commitment exhibited by those who have served and continue to serve in the armed forces. Anzac Day has thus become a unifying event, transcending generational divides and fostering a deep sense of national pride and collective memory.

Cultural Impact and Representation in Media

Anzac Day has a profound cultural impact, inspiring numerous works of literature, film, and art. Classic films like “Gallipoli” (1981), starring Mel Gibson, and Peter Weir’s “The Water Diviner” (2014), depict the harrowing experiences of the ANZAC soldiers and the enduring effects of the Gallipoli campaign.

Literature such as “A Fortunate Life” by A.B. Facey and “The Anzacs” by Patsy Adam-Smith offers personal and historical insights into the lives of those who served. These representations help to keep the stories of the ANZACs alive, educating new generations about their bravery and the realities of war. The cultural significance of Anzac Day continues to inspire artists and creators, ensuring that the legacy of the ANZACs is preserved in various forms.


Anzac Day is much more than a day of remembrance; it is a tapestry of stories, traditions, and cultural expressions that honor the ANZACs’ legacy. From the humble origins of the Anzac biscuit to the solemnity of the Dawn Service, the crucial role of animals in warfare, the international reach of commemorations, the evolving nature of the day, and its representation in media, Anzac Day is a multifaceted event that resonates deeply with people in Australia, New Zealand, and beyond.

As we delve into these fascinating and lesser-known facts about Anzac Day, we gain a profound and deeper appreciation for the enduring significance of this historic day. The spirit of courage, sacrifice, and unity that Anzac Day represents is a powerful reminder of the bravery and resilience of those who served.