WHAT’S THE STORY?

ANZAC Day commemorations were due to go ahead as planned today despite the threat of a terrorist attack.

Nearly 500 New Zealanders and Australians travelling to Gallipoli in Turkey were warned to “exercise a high degree of caution”.

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No details were released about the alleged threat which was revealed by the Australian and New Zealand governments.

Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Mike Phelan said only that information had been revealed that terrorists may be planning to attack services remembering the Fist World War’s Gallipoli Campaign.

The landings in 1915 were the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the conflict. Phelan said: “Terrorists may try to carry out an attack during the celebrations. That is all we have at this stage.”

He said Turkey was working on security measures with the input of the New Zealand and Australian authorities. Attempts to disrupt commemorations in previous years have been thwarted by Australian police. Last year a 16-year-old was detained on the grounds he was plotting an attack in Sydney and in 2015 five teenagers were arrested in Melbourne and accused of planning a Daesh-inspired attack.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

ANZAC Day is a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand but is regarded as an anachronism by some. It marks the involvement of Australian and New Zealand forces of the failed invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and while most agree it should endure as a day of national commemoration, critics say it should be more low-key.

Writer Paul Daley argues that both Anzac Day and Australia Day, which “celebrates the British invasion in 1788”, are “cultural crutches”.

“They are but relatively recent, fleeting moments of note among innumerable others in our 60,000-year continental human history,” he said.

“Anachronistic, steeped in sentiment and myth, they belong largely to an Australia that was comfortable to (officially) define itself as being for the white man. “For a long time now, especially since the cultural resurgence of Anzac Day in the 1980s, Australian sentiment about national foundation has largely found anchorage January 26 and April 25.”

Daley added: “Here’s a prediction: with the end of the centenary celebrations of the end of the First World War in 2018 (upon which Australia is lavishing hundreds of millions of dollars), Anzac Day could assume a more low-key, contextual place in popular Australian consciousness.”

IS IT JUST ABOUT 1915?

SUPPORTERS point out that April 25 has been widened out to commemorate not only those who died in the First World War but all Australians and New Zealanders who have lost their lives in military and peacekeeping operations since, including the Second World War.

At the time of the First World War, Australia and New Zealand had been dominions of the British Empire for 13 and seven years respectively when war broke out.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the 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 (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on April 25 and met 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, and the campaign dragged 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.

The Allied casualties included 21,255 from the UK, including some 4000 Irish soldiers from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an estimated 10,000 French soldiers, 8709 from Australia, 2721 from New Zealand, and 1358 from British India.

WHAT EFFECT DID THIS HAVE?

NEWS of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and April 25 quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy.

It has been argued that the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways in which they viewed both their past and their future and helping both to develop a psychological independence from Britain.

The first Anzac Day commemorations were held in 1916 with services throughout both countries and a march of 2000 New Zealand and Australian troops through London.

For the remaining years of the war Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns in Australia and New Zealand.

During the 1920s, Anzac Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the more than 60,000 Australians and 16,697 New Zealanders who had died during the war.

In both countries today commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landings, while former servicemen and women meet later in the day to take part in marches through the major cities.