My Big Australian Adventure – Part 11, ANZAC

ANZAC1This year I am in Sydney on 25th April, Anzac Day. Coming from the other side of the world this isn’t a commemoration that I know much about; for us 11th November is Remembrance Day.

I have heard of Anzac and was aware of it’s importance to Australians. I also had some idea that there were connections to the Gallipoli landings, but being here I thought it important to find out more…..

The meaning of ANZAC 

ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.It was formed in 1915 and disbanded in 1916 following the Allied evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula.

What is ANZAC Day?

Anzac Day is Australia’s national day of remembrance commemorated on 25th April.

The date was first marked in 1916 by ceremonies in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. For the remaining years of the war the day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns.

During the 1920’s the 25th became the a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who had died during the war. In 1927 every Australian state observed some form of public holiday and by the mid-1930’s all the rituals of the day had been established; dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions and two-up games.

The Second World War saw the commemoration extended to cover the additional Australian lives lost and in subsequent years it was broadened further to include all those lost during military operations.

The Origins of ANZAC

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The forces landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate with the campaign dragging on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25th April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.


Digger is a military slang term for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. Evidence of its use has been found in those countries as early as the 1850s, but its current usage in a military context did not become prominent until World War I when Australian and New Zealand troops began using it on the Western Front around 1916–17.

At the outbreak of World War I, Australia and New Zealand were both relatively “young” nations, with little exposure on the international stage. Deployed to Gallipoli in early 1915, the soldiers of both nations had a chance to prove themselves. Although the Gallipoli campaign resulted in heavy casualties and withdrawal for the Allies, the campaign became strongly linked with the emergence of national identity. Through the manner in which the soldiers endured the hardships of battle, the image that has become synonymous with the word “digger” embodies the qualities of “endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, and mateship”.

Two Up

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated ‘Spinner’ throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads up, both tails up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail (known as ‘Odds’). It is traditionally played on Anzac Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers through the ages.


The following details have been provided by the NSW Government, Trade & Investment, Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing:

Two-up is a gambling game in which coins are spun in the air and bets are laid on whether they fall heads or tails.

The game is regulated under the Gambling (Two-up) Act 1998 and may only be conducted on:

  • Anzac Day (25 April in any year)
  • Victory in the Pacific Day (15 August in any year), and
  • Remembrance Day (11 November in any year but only after noon).

A permit is not required.

The only exception to this is Broken Hill, where two-up is played all year round under a special licence from the New South Wales Government.





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