ANZAC Day During World War One – Part 2 The First Commemoration – 13 October 1915

This is the second installment in a four-part series about Anzac Day and how it was commemorated in South Australia and Gawler, during the years immediately following the first landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

This week, in Part 2, you can read about the first observance of Anzac Day in South Australia on 13 October 1915. On 2 May, in Part 3, we will look at how Anzac Day was commemorated on 25 April 1916. Finally, in Part 4, which will be posted on 9 May, you will be able to read about the more organised Anzac Day commemorations that occurred in 1917 and 1918.

ANZAC Day was not officially recognised until the first anniversary of the Landing at Gallipoli in 1916. In South Australia, the depth of feeling and gratitude and admiration for the young men who were wounded and killed at Gallipoli was such that Eight Hours Day in 1915 was renamed ‘Anzac Day’¹. Renaming the day was the initiative of a committee formed to plan and run a procession, pageant and carnival to be held on Wednesday 13 October 1915². All proceeds raised were pledged to the Wounded Soldiers’ Fund³.

A quote from The Bulletin was considered to be an accurate reflection of the spirit of Anzac Day:

They did not count the cost, our men
When came the time of stress:
They gave the best they had to give,
And we can do no less4.

The people of South Australia were encouraged to ‘do no less’ than their best as plans were made. Public participation was sought in a competition to name the day. The successful name, Anzac Day, was suggested by many people including Mr Robert Wheeler of Prospect whose name was drawn for the prize5. In another effort to draw people in, a competition to design a ‘suitable cover for the Official Souvenir Programme’ was conducted, the prize being a ‘handsome trophy’. The cost to enter was one shilling to aid the South Australian Wounded Soldiers’ Fund6.

Anzac Day Procession, King William Street, Adelaide,
13 October 1915. Source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 2801313.

On a ‘typical Australian Spring’ day, 13 October 1915, the people of Adelaide met in ‘good spirit’, rather than ‘merriment’, in support of the war effort7. It was an opportunity to demonstrate a ‘vital, patriotic sentiment’ in support and memory of ‘Australia’s own sons who … stormed the terrible heights of Gaba Tepe8 and planted the flag of an unflinching and desperate chivalry on the dawn-clad Peninsula of Gallipoli’9.

The main feature of ‘Anzac Day’ 1915 was the procession. It was ‘one big invitation to pay’ according to the Chronicle report. ‘Pretty girls’ with collection boxes solicited money from all and sundry. The parade consisted of military personnel (about two thousand men in total); wounded soldiers; bands; representatives of the Eight Hours movement, Commercial Travellers and the Shopkeepers’ Defence League; women from various organisations; a troop of women on horseback (some of whom likely came from Gawler for the occasion10); trade unionists; trade displays; numerous ‘humorists’ who entertained the crowd as they passed by; and much more11.

During the afternoon, a large crowd watched sports such as cycling and athletics at Adelaide Oval. Between sporting events, the Commercial Travellers ‘police force’ arrested, tried and fined prominent citizens – the Chief Secretary was charged with ‘carrying too much style’ and fined five shillings; the Premier ‘gave himself up’ and was fined one penny due to his good behaviour12. The crowd, apparently, found this to be highly entertaining -humour, 1915-style.

Much-anticipated and described as ‘a real American novelty’ was the tram smash that took place at Adelaide Oval. Two obsolete tram cars travelling at twenty miles an hour were involved in a ‘thrilling’ staged collision. Detonators placed on the rails exploded on impact resulting in the total demolition of ’eight tons of wood and iron’13 -Demolition Derby, 1915- style.

In the aftermath of the commemoration of Anzac Day, the Premier, Crawford Vaughan, praised the public response and financial contribution to the appeal for the South Australian Soldiers’ Fund. The event was considered to be ‘a splendid success’14. As a result £4,000 was paid into the Fund15.

Two tram cars being prepared for a staged smash on Adelaide Oval, 13 October 1915.  Source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 28018439.3

Two tram cars explode during the staged smash on Adelaide Oval, 13 October 1915. Source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 28018139.

The remains of the two tram cars after the staged smash on Adelaide Oval, 13 October 1915. Source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 28018310.

‘Anzac Day’ on 13 October 1915 went by with little commemoration in Gawler. ‘Cit.’, writing in The Bunyip, questioned whether it would not be fairer to remove the burden of raising funds for the patriotic cause from those who could least afford it by introducing a graduated taxation system that fell heaviest on those ‘most able to bear it’. But, he said, this would also remove the pleasure for families, mothers particularly, knowing that they had contributed some material assistance to making more bearable the lives of their boys16.

Gawler people were given the opportunity to contribute to the Wounded Soldiers’ Fund on 22 October 1915 when the Commercial Travellers set up their ‘mock court’ in front of the Gawler Institute. In the name of fun and fundraising, there were ‘wholesale arrests’ on charges such as the ‘unpardonable offence’ of being the wife of the Mayor, ‘standing too near the edge of the footpath, thereby endangering his life’ and a baker for being the ‘biggest loafer’ in town. Those charges were forced to appear before ‘Mr Justice Hunt’, generally found guilty and compelled to pay fines. A concert in the evening added to the funds raised and overall about £70 was donated to the Fund17.

Post Contributor: Anne Richards


[1] ‘Anzac Day Arrangements’, The Critic, 1 September 1915, p. 20,, accessed 25 November 2015. [Eight Hours Day is now celebrated as Labour Day. It occurs at different times across Australia because each state achieved the eight hour day at different times.]
[2] ‘Anzac Day’, The Register, 27 August 1915, p. 6,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[3] ‘Anzac Day: Important Notice to the Public’, The Advertiser, 30 September 1915, p. 2,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[4] ‘Anzac Day’, The Mail, 18 September 1915, p. 7, accessed 25 November 2015.
[5] ‘Anzac Day”, The Register, 27 August 1915, p. 6.
[6] ‘Anzac Day. Designs for Souvenir Programme’, The Express and Telegraph,7 September 1915, p. 2,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[7] ‘Anzac Day: a Stirring Demonstration in Adelaide, Chronicle,16 October 1915, p. 35,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[8] The attack on Gaba Tepe, a promontory south of the main Australian positions at Anzac by men of the 11th Battalion was an attempt to deny the Turks a vantage point from which they could observe and direct artillery around Anzac Cove. It ended in failure. “Raid on Gaba Tepe”, Australian War Memorial website,, accessed 27 November 2015.
[9] ‘Labour’s Loyalty: Anzac Day Celebration’, The Register, 14 October 1915,
p. 4,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[10] ‘Local Mems’, The Bunyip, 24 September 1915, p. 4,, accessed 19 November 2015.
[11] ‘Anzac Day: a Stirring Demonstration in Adelaide, Chronicle,16 October 1915, p. 35.
[12] Ibid.
[13] ‘Anzac Day: Magnificent Celebrations’, The Mail, 16 October 1915, p. 1,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[14] ‘Anzac Day a Splendid Success’, The Advertiser,14 October 1915, p. 8,, accessed 19 November 2015.
[15] ‘South Australian soldiers’ Fund: Report of Executive Committee’, The Register, 23 March 1916,, accessed 25 November 2015.
[16] ‘Anzac Day’, The Bunyip, 15 October 1915, p. 2,, accessed, 1 December 2015.
[17] ‘The Baggies at Gawler: Wholesale Arrests at Gawler’, The Bunyip, 29 October 1915, p. 2,, accessed 1 December 2015.


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