Anzac Day, 25 April
The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
New Zealanders have marked the landings at Gallipoli since news of the event first reached this country, and Anzac Day has been a public holiday since 1921. On this day the people of New Zealand have acknowledged the sacrifice of all those who have died in warfare, and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.
Over time there have been changes in the way that the day has been commemorated, reflecting the changing features and concerns of our society. During the Second World War, for example, there was increased interest and a heightened sense of the relevance of Anzac Day; in the 1960s and decades following it was from time to time used as a platform for anti-war and other social protest.
Today, at a time when it seems New Zealanders are increasingly keen to assert and celebrate a unique identity, we recognise Anzac Day as a central marker of our nationhood.
The number of New Zealanders attending Anzac Day events in New Zealand, and at Gallipoli, is increasing. For some younger people, the sombre focus of the day receives less emphasis than do the more celebratory aspects of a national holiday. For most, though, the day is an occasion on which to formally pay tribute and to remember.
Anzac Day now promotes a sense of unity. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can share a genuine sorrow at the loss of so many lives in war, and a real respect for those who have endured warfare on behalf of the country we live in.
Visit the Ministry's NZHistory website for a comprehensive online collection of material about the different conflicts New Zealand has been involved in from the internal wars of the 19th century to the First and Second World Wars as well as later conflicts.
Also see the WW100 - First World War Centenary website
Statistical information about New Zealand casualties in overseas wars is here.
Updated on 21st April 2022