ANZAC Day Centenary 1916-2016

Written by Assistant Curator, Social History, Lyn Petrie.

This year marks the centenary of ANZAC Day. While various local commemorative events had taken place across Australia during 1915, it was on 25th April 1916 that the first nationally recognised ANZAC Day ceremonies were held, just one year after the Gallipoli landing.

Planning for the ANZAC Day commemoration started in early 1916. The Queensland ANZAC Day Commemorative Committee, a group of politicians and influential members of society, was the driving force behind the structure of the day’s events and observances. The committee in fact suggested that the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli was a fitting date for the commemoration and Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce announced that 25 April would officially be named ANZAC Day.  An article in the Brisbane Courier on March 1,1916, outlines the committee’s plans for the day.

The official plan of observance is as follows:

 (1) That the object of the observance of the day be the commemoration of our fallen heroes; the remembrance of our wounded; the recognition of the gallant Courage displayed by Australia’s sons in fighting tor the preservation of liberty and civilisation.

 (2) That all the religious bodies be re-quested to observe the day by such religious services as each such body shall decide.

 (3) That in the evening a public meeting be held in every town in Queensland, when the events of the day shall be brought before the people, a uniform resolution submitted at every such meeting; and simultaneously throughout the State, during the meetings, every person and all work come to a standstill for a period of one minute at 9 p.m. in honour of our fallen heroes.

(a) That the mayor or shire chairman be requested to constitute forthwith a local committee to promote the observance of Anzac Day, and to carry out this plan in such manner as to insure united action in every part of the State.

(b) That at such public meetings the place of honour be given to the relatives of those who have died in Gallipoli and of those who have enlisted.’

In Brisbane, the State Commandant agreed to a parade of all troops stationed in camp. With the place of honour given to all available returned soldiers. Huge crowds massed along the route of the ANZAC Day military parade. It was expected that between 7,000 and 8,000 people would attend. Many photos of the day still exist but the photo above really illustrates the volume of people lining the route, near the General Post Office in Brisbane. Judging by the crowd in this photo, the expected attendance numbers could well have been exceeded. It looks like everyone is trying to gain a good vantage point, with the first floor balcony on the Post Office clearly being a prime location.

Sir H. J. Goold Adams the State Governor taking the salute at the post office on Anzac Day Brisbane 1916, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg. 203639

When the Queensland Government Printing Office (known as GoPrint) closed in 2013 it  donated many items to the Queensland Museum. Amongst these items, were two tickets displaying ‘General Post Office Balcony, Admit One, ANZAC Day’.

Tickets to Brisbane General Post Office Balcony, ANZAC Day, Queensland Museum
Tickets to Brisbane General Post Office Balcony, ANZAC Day, Queensland Museum

One ticket is green and the other pink, they are not dated and do not show a price. While we yet don’t know a lot about these tickets we can assume that they were used to admit people to the Brisbane Post Office balcony to watch the ANZAC Day parade and given there is no price that they were allotted in some way. Judging from the crowd spilling over the Post Office balcony, in the photo of the1916 ANZAC Day march, we can imagine that a spot on the balcony would be highly prized.