The Ways We Remember

Contrary to our current state of national lockdown, it does take a lot to cause a society to come to a standstill. Yet, each year on 25 April many New Zealanders embrace an early rise on a cold morning to attend an Anzac service. Bursting with tradition, symbolism, emotion and ritual, Anzac services have been a key part of our national calendar since the first service in 1916. This year marks the first year that Anzac Day will not be commemorated with any large public events and so I thought I would delve into our online databases Kura and Heritage Images to take a trip down memory lane and look at the different, and sometimes uniquely Kiwi, ways in which we have commemorated Anzac Day over the past 104 years.

Unknown, Anzac Day Town Hall, 1920s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 7-A9270

News of Allied troops landing on the beaches of the far-flung Gallipoli Peninsula reached New Zealand in the days following the now infamous maneuvers of 25 April, 1915. NZ History details what happened in the months that followed in Turkey, a time that saw New Zealand lose 2779 young men in a bloody, and frankly fruitless battle.

Evening Star, Issue 15788, 27 April 1915, Page 8

The long-lasting effects that the Gallipoli campaign had on New Zealand are plentiful. Many scholars have attempted to dissect this moment in time and the long-term impacts, including well-known New Zealand historians and authors. Auckland Libraries holds many publications that explore this complex topic. 

Perhaps the first thing one associates with the Gallipoli campaign is, of course, Anzac Day. Marked on 25 April every year, Anzac Day is not only a national day of remembrance but a chance to reflect on what it means to be a New Zealander and to stand together in contemplation. The first Anzac services took place from 1916 across Australia and New Zealand and continue to be well attended.

Auckland Weekly News, Anzac Day celebrations in Auckland: returned soldiers marching along Queen Street to the Town Hall, where a commemorative service was held. 2 May 1918. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-19180502-35-2

Unknown, Anzac Day Service, 1920s, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 755-ALB18-02-3,

One of the key, long-term effects of the Gallipoli campaign was the birth of the distinctive bond known as the ‘Anzac spirit’. As troops belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps stormed the 600m wide Turkish cove 115 years ago, we experienced a step in the development of our national identity. Prior to the First World War,  New Zealand had not had too many opportunities to consider what it meant to be a ‘New Zealander’- we didn’t even send our first athletes to the Olympics as ‘New Zealand’ until 1920!

New Zealand was still very much regarded as being a British outpost and it is fair to say that the national identity of many British subjects in New Zealand was exactly that- being British in New Zealand. The First World War changed that. For the first time, New Zealand men were sent overseas in large numbers and they were expected to face previously unheard of horrors. Working so closely with Australian troops, it is easy to understand why this ‘ANZAC’ spirit emerged so far home in a trying time of turmoil.

Charles Cecil Roberts, Anzac Day Service at Lion Rock, 1931, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-04K-01377-G.

Cyril Lee-Johnson, Anzac Day parade, Otahuhu, c. 1940, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection, Footprints 05530

Unknown, Anzac Day parade, Howick, 1954, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 01073. 

John Thomas Diamond, Anzac Day ceremony at Waikumete Cemetery, Glen Eden, 1960, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-12K-00994-2.

Anzac Day is synonymous with many things- parades, biscuits, the Last Post and, of course, poppies. Reminiscent of the wild, bright red poppies seen growing at the great battle sites across Europe, the poppy became a symbol for war remembrance across the world. In 1922, New Zealand celebrated its first Poppy Day, selling over 260,000 poppies and raising £13,166. Poppies to be worn on Anzac Day have been made in New Zealand since 1931 and they continue to be a popular symbolic aspect of Anzac, and other war commemorations.

Unknown, Anzac Day ceremony, Papatoetoe, 1970s, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 01506

Unknown, Anzac Day parade, Papatoetoe, 1980s, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 01513.
Unknown, 'ANZACs remembered', Middlemore, 1991, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection, Footprints 03499

While Anzac Day was initially established to remember the men lost in Europe in the First World War, as the years went on the narrative expanded to include people who served in the Second World War. More recently, troops involved in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and in Peacekeeping activities in Southeast Asia and the Middle East are also remembered. 

Paul Restell, Poppy sellers, Howick, 2000, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 04206.

Quick March, Vol. IV. - No. 11. 10th March, 1922, New Zealand Returned Services Association, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, QM_19220310. 

Other library Anzac resources: 


'Gallipoli landings', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-Apr-2019

'The red poppy', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 16-Apr-2020


Samantha Waru, Graduate Heritage, Research and Archives.