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Anzac Day

Information about Anzac Day within New Zealand.

Anzac Day, 25 April, is New Zealand's most important day of national commemoration. It marks the anniversary of the first major action by New Zealand and Australian forces during the First World War, landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

A tri-service catafalque guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on Anzac Day in 2021

On Anzac Day, we commemorate the service and sacrifice of all New Zealand servicemen and servicewomen.

Visit the NZHistory website for a comprehensive online collection of World War One material. 

Useful links:

 

The difference between ANZAC and Anzac

You should use the term 'ANZAC' with all capitals only when referring specifically to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which was the name given to the military formation to which the New Zealand troops at Gallipoli were attached.

For all other uses 'Anzac’ should be used, including Anzac Day and reference to the 'Anzacs'.

Historically, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was an acronym devised by Major General William Birdwood's staff in Cairo in early 1915. It was used for registering correspondence for the new corps and a rubber stamp was cut using the letters A.& N.Z.A.C.

After the landing at Gallipoli, General Birdwood requested that the position held by the Australians and New Zealanders on the peninsula be called 'Anzac' to distinguish it from the British position at Helles. Permission was also sought to name the little bay, where the majority of the corps had come ashore on 25 April 1915, as ‘Anzac Cove'.

Find out more about the use of the word ‘Anzac’ guidelines on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website or read the Anzac Day Act 1966

Laying of wreaths and flowers

Flowers have traditionally been laid on graves and memorials of the dead. The ‘poppy’ has a special significance in relation to Anzac Day in New Zealand – when poppies are traditionally worn. 

The Friday before Anzac Day is designated Poppy Day and is fundraising efforts are organised by the RNZRSA for the welfare of war veterans and their families.

The Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short and his wife, Mrs Sherryll Short lay a wreath on Anzac Day 2021

Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, and Mrs Sherryll Short lay a wreath at Pukeahu National War Memorial.

Flags at half-mast

The tradition of lowering flags to half-mast as a sign of remembrance is believed to have naval origins. As a sign of respect for important persons, ships would lower their sails, thus slowing the vessel and allowing for the other vessel to come alongside and board if need be. In time, only the ship’s flags were lowered as a symbolic gesture. This practice was also adopted on land. At wreath laying ceremonies it is customary to half-mast the flag during the playing of the Last Post as a sign of remembrance, and then to raise the flag to the top of the masthead as the Rouse is sounded. 

Anzac Day Last Post Ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial.

The Ode 

E kore rātou e kaumātuatia
Pēnei i a tātou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki rātou e ngoikore
Ahakoa pehea i  ngā āhuatanga o te wā
I te hekenga atu o te rā
Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

Many ceremonies of remembrance include a recitation of The Ode. It is the fourth stanza of ‘For the Fallen’, a poem written by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) in 1914. At all wreath laying ceremonies it is common for The Ode to be recited in the official languages of New Zealand by a veteran.

During September-October 1939 throughout ten Allied countries, and upon the suggestion of FIDAC (Inter-allied Federation of Ex-Servicemen), the 25th anniversary of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”, was observed. This is one of the most famous and enduring war poems, and it was written at an historic moment – just after the retreat from Mons and the victory of the Marne. As to how it came to be written, Laurence Binyon, who celebrated his 70th birthday on 10 August 1939, says: “I can’t recall the exact date beyond that it was shortly after the retreat. I was set down, out of doors, on a cliff in Polzeath, Cornwall. The stanza ‘They Shall Grow Not Old’ was written first and dictated the rhythmical movement of the whole poem”.

Last Post/Rouse

The Last Post is a bugle call that signals the end of the day. It became incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell and symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace. The Rouse signifies that, after a period of mourning, life and duty continue.

Anzac Day Last Post Ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial.