THE EXTENT of the Gallipoli landings by New Zealand soldiers on 25 April 1915 wasn't fully known until many days after, and early reports for one reason or another somewhat distorted what had actually occurred.
However when the Roll of Honour listing the dead and wounded began to appear in the Napier and Hastings newspapers during May 1915 from a war many had expected to not occur, or be over by Christmas 1914 a sense of shock set in.
The next year the public of both Australia and New Zealand wished to commemorate the landings at Gallipoli of their troops, and remember those who had been killed. The government gave a half day for this purpose from 1pm on 25 April 1916. In London an Anzac Day service was held in Westminster Abbey, London for Australian and New Zealand soldiers who marched down the Strand and Whitehall to the Abbey.
Hastings held its 1916 Anzac Day service at night in the Municipal Theatre, while Napier held theirs on the Marine Parade in front of the Masonic Hotel. The format of the Anzac Day service in Hastings came under the influence of Dr Ernest Boxer (1875 - 1927) president of the Hastings and later National RSA.
This commemoration in Hastings took the form of a war-time burial re-enactment, and as such was a solemn and mournful occasion, and applause was forbidden for speeches or musical items. This format became known as the "Boxer Service", and Dr Boxer tried to standardise this across New Zealand - with many towns adopting it. The rationale, he explained, was that many family and friends could obviously not attend the funerals of thousands of our young men killed overseas. While the returned soldiers might not want this type of service, they could reminisce later of their deeds at the RSA clubrooms. So the service was aimed at allowing families to grieve for their loss in a formal setting. While the Hastings Boxer Service was has changed over time, his its legacy today can still be seen in elements of the modern service, with solemnity and respect a key part.
Steps were taken to protect the Anzac name, so it could not be commercially exploited and the RSAs in particular wanted a full holiday to be given and commercial activities to cease on this day, and to be treated like a holy day such as Easter or Christmas. A full day holiday was given in 1922.
The Napier Anzac Day service pictured in 1940 at the Marine Parade Sound Shell began at 2.30pm under the control of the Napier RSA. Large crowds attended, and attributed to World War II beginning. The speaker was E H T Duncan of the Napier RSA, and Rev. W S G Cameron of Port Ahuriri. The procession included 200 returned soldiers, led by four bands. After the Sound Shell service they marched to the Cenotaph in Memorial Square for the laying of the Wreaths.
In his address the Rev. Cameron said the observance of Anzac Day was necessary "as years pass it is inevitable that events, no matter how important in their day, should lose something of their significance". While many would have agreed in 1940, by the late 1960s many included some leaders of the RSA and Governor General Sir Arthur Porritt questioned why Anzac Day should remain a public holiday. "Even accepting that the glory of Anzac had been stimulated by the Second World War, it was 25 years since then and the signs of diminishing recollection were obvious," he said.
"Two thirds of our population have no knowledge of war." His solution was that Anzac Day should be "nurtured alone or with friends in a religious service." Hastings Mayor Ron Giorgi also believed that in 1970 the afternoon service and parade would cease to exist, and instead recreational healthy past-times undertaken. Many sports fixtures were already held on Anzac Day, including race meetings, and the significance of Anzac Day had been lost and was being treated as a holiday. Despite soldiers still being alive from World War I and most of the World War II men, an anti-war sentiment fuelled largely by the Vietnam War had some impact on Anzac Day, which had become a stage to promote anti-war feelings and any other cause by protesters in the 1960s and 1970s. Many returned servicemen were puzzled and hurt by this.
The 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in 1990 created lots of interest in New Zealand.
And together with a rise in nationalism, which had been fostered by New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance in the mid-1980s, Anzac Day and the significance of Gallipoli was rebirthed by a younger generation who began to attend dawn parades and services in the thousands.
It became fashionable among them to visit Gallipoli on an OE. By the early 2000s Anzac Day services were being populated by a younger generation proud to be New Zealanders, and many who associated the significance of Gallipoli to their nation's identity.
-Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is a writer of history and trainer in accounting for non-accountants.