Our Late Member Mr Basil Best AM, a staunch supporter of the RSL over many years paying a tribute to the fallen. 

ANZAC DAY – 25 April

Why is this day special to Australians?

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a Federation for only 14 years.    In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition which set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies.  The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany.  They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders.  What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months.  At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships.  Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed.  News of the landing at Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign, it bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy.  The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the national identity of both nations.  This shaped the ways they viewed both their past and future.

From the Camera of a New Zealand Nurse

The ANZAC Spirit or ANZAC Legend

This is a concept which suggests that Australian and New Zealand soldiers possess shared characteristics, specifically the qualities those soldiers allegedly exemplified on the battlefields of World War I.  These perceived qualities include endurance, courage, ingenuity, and good humour.

Origins of the word  ‘ANZAC’

ANZAC is the acronym formed from the initial letters of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. This was the formation in which Australian and New Zealand soldiers in Egypt were grouped before the landings on Gallipoli in April 1915.

General Sir Ian Hamilton (commander of the British forces in the Dardanelles) and General Sir William Birdwood (commander of the Australians and New Zealanders at Gallipoli) have both claimed a hand in the coining of the term ‘Anzac’.  However, the most likely explanation of its origin is contained in the official history by CEW Bean, who wrote:

One day early in 1915 Major CM Wagstaff of the ‘operations’ section of Birdwood’s staff, walked into the General Staff office and mentioned to the clerks that a convenient word was wanted as a code name for the Corps.  The clerks had noticed the big initials on the cases outside their room A. & N. Z. A. C. and a rubber stamp for registering correspondence had also been cut with the same initials.  When Wagstaff mentioned the need of a code word, one of the clerks (Lieutenant A.T White) suggested: “How about ANZAC?”.  Major Wagstaff proposed the word to the General, who approved of it.

Australian Sergeants G C Little and H V Milligan were responsible for cutting the original stamp and Bean suggested that the first time the word was used was when Sergeant Little asked Sergeant Milligan to throw him the ANZAC stamp.

‘ANZAC’, would become the name of the main area in which the Australians and New Zealanders fought at Gallipoli, as well as the name of the soldiers themselves.

Early Commemorations

The date, 25 April, was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916 and was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt.  In London over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets.  A London newspaper headline dubbed them “The knights of Gallipoli”.  Marches were held all over Australia in 1916.  Wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended the Sydney march in convoys of cars, attended by nurses.  For the remaining years of the war, ANZAC Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in many cities.

During the 1920s ANZAC Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who died during the war.  The first year in which all 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, two-up games — were firmly established as part of ANZAC Day culture.

With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day was used to also commemorate the lives of Australians also lost in that war.  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.

What Does it Mean Today?

Australians recognise 25 April as an occasion of national commemoration ,respect and reflection.  Commemorative services are held at war memorials across the nation at dawn, the time of the original landing.  Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres.


The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today.  During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack.  Soldiers in defensive positions were, therefore, woken up in the dark, before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons.  This was, and still is, known as “stand-to”.  It was also repeated at sunset.

The Mourning Woman

Perhaps one of the theories of the origins of the dawn service is the story of the mourning woman.

The story goes that in the early hours of Anzac Day in 1927, a group of five war veterans were making their way home from an Anzac function in Sydney when they stopped at the as yet unfinished cenotaph in Martin Place.  The men saw an elderly woman placing flowers on the cenotaph, bowed their heads beside her and vowed to hold a dawn service each year.

In 1928 around 150 people gathered to lay wreaths and observe two minutes’ silence as a mark of respect, and a tradition of the dawn service was born.

Why Dawn?

Dawn has resonance with military life because it is strategically important, and that it was also the time when troops landed at Gallipoli.

Where were the first Dawn Services?

A service was held on the Western Front by an Australian battalion on the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing on April 25, 1916, and historians agree that in Australia dawn services spontaneously popped up around the country to commemorate the fallen at Gallipoli in the years after the landing.

A report from The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton on April 26, 1916 says over 600 people attended an interdenominational service that started at 6.30am.  In attendance were those who had returned from fighting in Gallipoli and others who had “felt the call” and were soon to join the troops serving in the Great War.

“Just as the service started at half-past six o’clock the sun burst through the clouds and shone as gloriously and as brightly as it did on that memorable and never-to-be forgotten 25th of April, 1915,” the article reports.

The Albany Service

A dawn service started by Reverend Arthur Ernest White in Albany in Western Australia is often named as one of the first dawn service, but is likely to have been held in 1930.

The Sydney Service

Whether or not the myth of the old woman at the cenotaph is true, from 1928 the dawn service in Sydney grew year upon year.  By 1935, 10,000 people were attending the service at the cenotaph in Martin Place.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn.  With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s; the first continual official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.  Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual.  In many cases they were restricted to veterans only and the daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers.

Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes’ silence would follow.  At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the Last Post and then concluded the service with Reveille.  In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers, and rifle volleys.  Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to many soldiers.

The ANZAC Day Ceremony

Each year the commemorations follow a pattern that is familiar to each generation of Australians.  A typical ANZAC Day service contains the following features: introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, recitation, Last Post, a period of silence, Rouse or Reveille, and the national anthem. At the Memorial, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour at the conclusion of events such as the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services.

 There is much written about ANZAC, and one of interest is found on the Australian Parliament House website:

ANZAC Day— is probably Australia’s and New Zealand’s most important national occasion.  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.

North Beach Sub-Branch commemorates ANZAC Day with a Dawn Service where members, VIP guests and the public, commemorate fallen and departed comrades and recitation of the ‘ODE’.  The service is well attended by invited Perth dignitaries, local MP’s, Service Chiefs, members of the public and Sub-Branch members.  In recent times, the formal Dawn Service has attracted around 10,000.

The congregation is invited to a convivial ‘Gunfire Breakfast’ held at the North Beach Bowling Club, immediately after the Dawn service.



0530    Public begins to gather

0551    ANZAC related material presented on screen plus song by celebrity entertainer

0600    Songs performed by the Choir –

0609    Official Welcome

Master of Ceremonies.

Parade of Cadet Unit and Veterans

0613    Flypast

0614    The Anzac Day Address  Presented by the President of the North Beach RSL Sub Branch or nominee

The Lord’s Prayer    Led by Sub-Branch Padre

Hymn  “Abide With Me”

A Prayer of Remembrance  Led by Sub-Branch Padre

Recitation – “In Flanders Field” by nominated student

Laying of Wreaths

The laying of Wreaths – led by the nominated representative of the North Beach RSL Sub Branch

The Ode         President, North Beach RSL Sub Branch.

The Last Post

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.

“Lest we forget”

All repeat:

“Lest we forget”

One Minute’s Silence


The National Anthem

Closing Address

Invitation for all attendees to join the members of the North Beach RSL Sub Branch to a Gunfire Breakfast at the North Beach Bowling Club. .

Parade of Veterans and Cadets Dismiss

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