A Guide to Anzac Day for New Zealanders
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Myths & Misconceptions

Anzac Day and the Gallipoli campaign it originally commemorated are the subject of much misinformation. Here is our attempt to correct some of the more common myths and misconceptions.

That we won!

Not true. In military terms the Gallipoli campaign was a disaster which saw thousands of young men killed for no real benefit to the Allied war effort. The Allied forces were defeated by the Turkish army and by January 1916 they were forced to evacuate the Gallipoli peninsula. The reasons for Anzac Day becoming such a source of national pride are complex, but can be traced to the fact that it was the first significant engagement of New Zealand troops in the First World War. The daily lists of fatalities appearing in the newspapers back home became a source of great pride in our country's sacrifice and contribution, as well as sorrow.

That more New Zealanders were killed at Gallipoli than in any other campaign in the First World War.

Not true. In fact many more New Zealanders were killed on the Western Front (12,483). However, the 2721 New Zealanders who were killed represented almost a third of those who took part in the campaign. This represents the highest percentage of fatalities of any First World War campaign in which New Zealanders fought.

That all the action took place on Anzac Day or immediately afterwards.

Not true. In fact the campaign dragged on for months with New Zealand troops being killed right up until they were evacuated in December 1915. About 3100 of the 8556 New Zealanders who served at Gallipoli landed on 25 April. More New Zealanders were killed in August than any other month.

That the main attack was at Anzac Cove

Not true. It is commonly believed that Australia and New Zealand were the most important allied forces at Gallipoli. In fact the main attack was in the south at Cape Helles, not at Anzac Cove, and there were thousands of soldiers from Britain, India and France involved.

That New Zealanders landed at dawn on 25 April and this is why we have the dawn ceremony on Anzac Day.

Not true. In fact the first New Zealanders didn't land until after 9am and most landed after the middle of the day, though the 3rd Australian Brigade did land just before dawn. The first official dawn ceremony as part of Anzac Day commemorations was held in Australia in 1927; New Zealand did not adopt this practice widely until 1939.

That Poppy Day is another name for Anzac Day.

Not true. In fact Poppy Day is usually the Friday before Anzac Day. The poppies are traditionally then worn on the left lapel for a few days, but especially on Anzac Day. See the NZRSA site for more information.

Can you suggest more? Email webmaster@mch.govt.nz and if we agree we'll add them to the list.

Anzac Day
Dates

Poppy

1916 – Anzac Day gazetted as a half-day holiday

1921 – Anzac Day first marked as a full public holiday

1939 – First year dawn ceremony included in New Zealand Anzac Day commemorations

1949 – Legislation passed preventing Anzac Day from being 'Mondayised'

1966 – Current Anzac Day Act passed liberalising activities allowed after 1pm


Further Info:
- NZHistory.net.nz: Anzac Day
- RSA: History of Anzac Day