Can you think of a year when ANZAC day commemorations were not observed? So deeply is it rooted in the Australian landscape and psyche, that it would take some serious chipping to have it removed from our nation’s rituals and thoughts – even with our ever growing obsession with bbqs and snags.
In this 100th anniversary year of the commencement of the “war to end all wars”, it becomes ever more salient to think about what ANZAC day means to us. Is it a day of remembrance? To acknowledge sacrifice? To reflect on the twin ideas of war and peace? Is it a time to better understand the history and place of Queensland in the story of the ANZAC?
For many, ANZAC day bears as much relevance today, as it did in years gone by. But what do we know of the history of ANZAC Day itself?
Would you be surprised to know that Queensland played an important role as the first formal ANZAC day services were observed in Australia and Britain on Tuesday April 25 1916 to mark the first anniversary of the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli? It has been argued that is was the idea of a Brisbane auctioneer named Thomas Augustine Ryan who petition the Government to mark the sacrifices made by allied soldiers on that far off Turkish shore.
And did you know that the first Australian ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee was also founded in Brisbane on January 10, 1916? Chaired by Anglican Chaplain Canon David Garland known to many as the “architect of ANZAC Day”. The original minute books for 1916 and subsequent years are held in the State Library of Queensland’s John Oxley Library Collection and they make fascinating reading. As do the papers of Canon Garland, also housed in the collection.
The Brisbane Committee was at the forefront of the movement to “establish ANZAC Day as the unchallenged sacred national day of mourning for the nation’s fallen”(1).
As part of unearthing the story of Queensland’s role in the Great War, a number of items in our John Oxley Library collection have been digitised, including the program from the first official ANZAC Day memorial in Brisbane 1916 (below).
This program with order of events is a wonderful memento of the occasion itself, but also of the efforts of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee.
A full digital copy of this program is available through our catalogue: Anzac Day, 25th April, 1916, Program.
The cover illustration of this program resembles the iconography used on the ANZAC Day badge, issued for the first observance of ANZAC Day in 1916 to symbolise the heroism of the ANZACs.
H.J Diddams explained: As “ANZAC Day fall[s] on St. Mark’s Day, the winged lion of St. Mark was chosen as symbolic of super-human strength; the Queensland crest – a cross open which a crown is imposed, surrounded by laurel leaves – was added as in itself also appropriate. The motto “Audax at Fidelis” (“Brave yet faithful”), Queensland’s motto, was adopted as most suitable”. (2)
You will also notice on the cover of the program (above), a representative from the Army and Navy, a French soldier, an Indian Sikh soldier (formed part of the British army) and a New Zealand Māori soldier.
What does ANZAC day mean to you?
(1) Moses, John A “The struggle for Anzac Day 1916-1930 and the role of the Brisbane Anzac Day Commemoration Committee”. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. 88.1 2002-06. 54-74
(2) Diddams, H. J and Anzac Day Commemoration Committee, Queensland Anzac commemoration, 1921: a brief history of the movement ; sermons and addresses delivered throughout Queensland. Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland, Brisbane, 1921. Available by request at John Oxley Library.
Zenovia Pappas – Contemporary Collecting Coordinator, State Library of Queensland