Formal international services on Anzac Day honoring the courage and sacrifices of Australian and New Zealand military forces will again be held at sites in Turkey and France where the troops fought during World War I after years of being cancelled due to COVID-19. On April 25, 2022, memorial ceremonies will again take place at Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux for the first time since 2019.
Both locations are hallowed ground in Australasian military history—the Gallipoli campaign has defined perceptions of Anzac troops worldwide, while Villers-Bretonneux, in the Somme department of France, is the site of a national memorial to all Australian military personnel killed on the Western Front.
“While there have been local wreath-laying services in both countries to commemorate Anzac Day during the pandemic, Australians have not been able to travel to these important places of remembrance and commemoration to attend services,” Andrew Gee, Australia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement.
Anzac Day, one of the most important national days in Australia and New Zealand, has been observed annually on April 25 since 1916. The term “Anzac” derives from an abbreviation of “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps” and was used to refer to Australasian troops who took part in the Allied expedition to capture Gallipoli in 1915. After landing on the shores of Gallipoli with audacious heroism that became legendary, the troops became bogged down in a campaign that lasted for eight months. Over 8,000 Australian troops lost their lives and Allied forces ultimately withdrew from the peninsula at the end of 1915. Commemorated on the anniversary of the landing, Anzac Day eventually became a national remembrance day during the 1920s for all Australian and New Zealand troops who lost their lives during World War I. Today Anzac Day commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who gave their lives in military service and honors the sacrifices of veterans. Anzac Day is marked by dawn commemoration services followed by marches and ceremonies nationwide across Australia and New Zealand.
The announcement of the resumption of memorial ceremonies at key international Anzac history sites marks a return to normalcy for Australians and New Zealanders who had been prevented from attending or who felt disheartened after the services were suspended indefinitely.
Meka Whaitiri, New Zealand Minister for Veterans, said in a statement that the ceremony in Gallipoli had been “keenly missed.” Whaitiri will represent New Zealand at the 2022 service in Gallipoli and will visit the site of Number 1 Outpost, where the Māori Contingent Pā was situated, in addition to many other locations where heavy fighting took place.
The commemorations will be held in accord with Turkish and French public health guidelines.
“Both Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux hold special meaning for our country, as places where thousands of Australians served and lost their lives in the First World War,” said Gee.
“The international commemorative services at Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux honor their service and sacrifice and that of all Australians who have served our nation in uniform, ensuring that we fulfill our sacred commitment to remember them.”