Section 6: Anniversaries

This year, 2016, is the 100th anniversary of the first commemoration of Anzac Day as well as the 1916 campaign on the Western Front. The following battles are covered in greater depth in Section 4 of this publication.

7 April 1916—the Australians, having recovered in Egypt from the rigours of service at Gallipoli, reach the Western Front and take up positions at Armentieres, France.

19–20 July 1916—the first battle for the Australians on the Western Front was the Battle of Fromelles. It resulted in 5,533 Australians being killed or wounded, and rendered the 5th Australian Division incapable of offensive action for many months.

23 July–7 August 1916—the first protracted battle for the Australians on the Western Front was Pozieres (part of the Somme battlefield). There were more than 17,000 Australian casualties from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Division in the course of this battle.

3–4 August 1916—whilst the Australian infantry deployed to France in 1916, the Light Horse remained in Egypt. The Battle of Romani, Egypt, involving the Australian Light Horse, finally put a stop to the Turkish threat to the Suez Canal. After Romani, the Allies went on the offensive and, led by the Australian Light Horse, reached Gaza and Beersheeba (in Palestine) by early 1917.

22 November 1916—in the winter of 1916–17 the 3rd Australian Division, under the command of the legendary Australian General, Sir John Monash, arrives in France from England to join its fellow Australian divisions in the line in Flanders.

1916 Anzac Day commemorations

The first Anzac Day was commemorated by members of the AIF in various parts of the world as much as it was in Australia, but circumstances often meant a different approach to commemoration.

AIF personnel serving in Egypt

Unit war diaries indicate that for the AIF units serving at Serapeum in Egypt, the anniversary of Anzac Day was commemorated with a memorial service held at 7 am, followed by a full day holiday of sports and swimming at the Suez Canal. Participants included the 4th, 8th and 12th Infantry Brigades and the 13th, 14th and 51st Infantry Battalions. Of those attending, the 12th Infantry Brigade’s diary entry was the most detailed, stating:  

Anzac Day. Memorial service at 700, after which a whole holiday. Most of the Brigade went to the canal to attend water sports. Brigade competitions held in the morning, Divisional in the afternoon. The Brigade carried off 5 prizes out of 12 events. The day was fine. There was a great gathering of Australian troops on the banks of the Canal, which afforded a unique sight. The Prince of Wales and the Army Corps Commander attended the sports; the latter gave away the prizes.

AIF personnel serving on the Western Front

The diary entries of AIF units in Belgium and northern France for 25 April 1916 revealed further varying responses to the Anzac anniversary. At Steenwerck in northern France, the 7th and 8th Infantry Battalions participated in sports following an inspection by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1st Australian Division. The 7th Infantry Battalion’s diary noted:

The GOC, 1st Australian Division inspected 7th Battalion on this birthday of ours. It is hard to realize that is 12 months ago today that Australians made such a name for themselves on that pitiless shore of Anzac and this glowing regiment of ours lost its finest, bravest and best men. Greetings were received from different people from all parts of the globe.

At Sailly sur la Lys, also in northern France, the 9th, 11th and 12th Infantry Battalions also commemorated Anzac Day with an inspection by the British General Herbert Plumer and an address by Brigadier-General Ewen George Sinclair-Maclagan, who himself landed at Gallipoli on 25 April the year before with the 9th Battalion. That Battalion’s diary also recorded that Company sports were held in the afternoon, with £50 in total prize money distributed.    

Other units at the frontline trenches made no mention of the Anzac Day anniversary in their diary entries. For example, the 20th Infantry Battalion at Bois Grenier in northern France, simply remarked ‘In front trenches. Improvement of defences continued. Aerial activity. Three … wounded’. The 23rd Infantry Battalion at Fleurbaix in northern France similarly recorded that ‘Battalion in trenches. Enemy ineffectively shelled our communication trench. Uneventful day. Our patrol established a listening post … in front of our line. Enemy patrol dispersed by our machine guns during the night’. Further north at Petillion in Belgium, the 4th Infantry Battalion observed in its diary entry that ‘Early this morning Private G. Gibb, D. Co., killed by rifle bullet while on fatigue duty. Later in [the] day another casualty, Private Smith, slightly wounded. Today is anniversary of Anzac landing 1915 and special issue of cake made’.    

Newspaper articles describing the 1916 anniversary of the Anzac landings

The following articles, sourced from the National Library of Australia’s Trove database, describe the various events held in Australia commemorating the first anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli in 1915. These activities generally included memorial church services, parades and fundraising activities.

New South Wales

25 April 1916, The Sydney Morning HeraldDefence Minister’s message of appreciation on Anzac Day

25 April 1916, The Sydney Morning HeraldAnzac Day parade and church services

25 April 1916, The Sydney Morning Herald— full page article on the anniversary of Anzac Day

30 April 1916, Sunday Times (Sydney)—Anzac Day increase in recruiting

29 April 1916, The Cobargo Chronicle— Anzac Day commemorations at Cobargo

29 April 1916, The Scrutineer and Berrima District PressAnzac Day memorials at Moss Vale and Berrima

29 April 1916, The Ulladulla and Milton Times—Anzac Day memorial at Ulladulla

29 April 1916, The Port Macquarie and Hastings River Advocate—Anzac Day commemorations at Port Macquarie

29 April 1916, The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta)—Anzac Day memorial at Parramatta

29 April 1916, Western Herald (Bourke, NSW)—Anzac Day commemorations in Bourke

29 April 1916, Nepean Times (Penrith)—Anzac Day commemorations in Penrith

29 April 1916, The Armidale Chronicle—Anzac Day memorial at Armidale

Victoria

29 April 1916, The Ballarat Star—Anzac Day commemorations at Ballarat

29 April 1916, Darling Downs Gazette—Anzac Day commemoration in Melbourne with Acting Prime Minister, Senator George Pearce

29 April 1916, Footscray Chronicle—Anzac Day memorial service at Footscray church

29 April 1916, The Prahran Telegraph—Anzac Day commemorations at St Kilda

Queensland

29 April 1916, Cairns Post—Anzac Day memorial at Gordonvale

29 April 1916, Townsville Daily Bulletin—Anzac Day memorial at Ingham

29 April 1916, The Capricornian (Rockhampton)—Prime Minister Hughes’ Anzac Day messages and reporting of memorials at London, Melbourne and Brisbane

South Australia

29 April 1916, The Observer (Adelaide)—Official Anzac Day ceremony in Adelaide

29 April 1916, The Observer (Adelaide)—Anzac Day commemorations at Broken Hill

29 April 1916, The Kadina and Wallaroo TimesAnzac Day commemorations at Wallaroo

Western Australia

30 April 1916, Sunday Times (Perth)—Anzac Day commemorations in Perth

29 April 1916, Great Southern Herald (Katanning)—Anzac Day commemorations at Katanning

29 April 1916, The W.A. Record (Perth)—Anzac Day memorial at Perth Catholic Cathedral

Tasmania

29 April 1916, The Mercury (Hobart)—Anzac Day memorial in Hobart

29 April 1916, The Mercury (Hobart)—Anzac Day commemorations in Hobart

 

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