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The origins of the Anzac Day celebrations and the contributions of Monash

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Why the spirit of Anzac has captured the imagination of all Australians

As we celebrate the centenary, this month, of the birth of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) legend, it is worthwhile contemplating why we have a public holiday on 25 April and the origins of some of the traditions that make that day so special. In doing so, I also explore the contributions made by Sir John Monash to establishing and perpetuating those traditions.1,2

It was a Sunday morning, just before dawn on 25 April 1915, when a group of volunteer Australian and New Zealand soldiers waded ashore on a small beach, just north of Gaba Tepe on the western shore of the Gallipoli Peninsula, in the south-west region of the Asian part of Turkey. The objective of this allied amphibious assault was to capture the high ground and east coast of the peninsula and the Dardanelles strait beyond, and advance on to Constantinople.

However, the Turks were prepared and waiting. The beach on which the Anzacs landed was surrounded by cliffs and after 7 months of fierce fighting and counterattacks, it was clear the objective would not be achieved. Paradoxically, the most successful military achievement of the Gallipoli Campaign was the evacuation of 45 000 Anzacs from the peninsula between 15 and 20 December 1915, without a single casualty.