ANZAC Day During World War One – Part 3, 1916

This is the third instalment 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.

Part 3, looks at how Anzac Day was commemorated on 25 April 1916. Finally, in Part 4 next week, you will be able to read about the more organised Anzac Day commemorations that occurred in 1917 and 1918.

At a public meeting in Brisbane early in January 1916, the decision was made that Queensland would commemorate the Gallipoli Landing on 25 April¹. Letters were sent out to the Premiers of the other States inviting them to consider similar action.

In the opinion of ‘Anglo-Australian’, who wrote to The Express and Telegraph, the anniversary of the Landing at Gallipoli should be remembered in a way that would do honour to the ‘brave dead as well as the living’, and perhaps with a holiday for all². The idea of a public holiday gained community support. When the State Premiers met in Melbourne during February 1916, the subject of the commemoration of the Landing was discussed but the idea of a public holiday on 25 April was considered ‘undesirable while the war was in progress’. However, organisations were at liberty to make whatever arrangements they thought suitable to commemorate the day³.

Despite the lack of a State-wide coordinated approach to the remembrance of Anzac Day, the Premier of South Australia proposed that the schools would hold ‘special demonstrations’ in the week prior to 25 April 1916. In addition, organisations responsible for the recruitment of soldiers (such as rifle clubs, agricultural bureaus, institute committees, churches and patriotic bodies) were asked to provide lists of names so that a record of enlistment that occurred between 1 and 25 April 1916 could be published4. This was a blatant attempt to encourage enlistments – a prize was offered to the town that, proportionate to the number of eligible men, found the largest number of recruits.

Anzac Day was ‘celebrated with fitting solemnity’ in Adelaide. Flags flew, the bells in the Town Hall tower rang out and services were held in churches, at the Town Hall and in ‘the central square’ (now known as Victoria Square). Trains and trams were stopped at 9am for two minutes of silence and at the same time whistles were sounded in many factories and work ceased while workers remembered the Anzacs5.

The Adelaide Town Hall was ‘densely packed’ for the service organised by the Council of Churches. It was attended by dignitaries such as the Governor, (Sir Henry Galway), the Premier (Crawford Vaughan) and the Military Commandant (Colonel Rowell). Pride of place was given to some of the men who had fought at Gallipoli.

In the central square, the ‘official service’ was held at noon near the statue of Queen Victoria which was decorated by members of the Wattle Day League with wattle and festoons of red and white roses. A large crowd and many dignitaries including the Premier and Governor, gathered to remember the ‘baptism of fire and the hellish sacrifice’ of the Gallipoli Landing6. The King’s tribute to the Anzacs was read and the Governor spoke stirringly of the great deeds of brave men, some of whom were present, on foreign shores7.

In various parts of the city other commemorations were held during the day and evening. At Glenelg the Cheer-Up Society hosted a large gathering at which presentations were made to returned soldiers, some of whom were veterans of Gallipoli. In O’Connell Street, North Adelaide, a large crowd, including shopkeepers, shop assistants, local residents and employees of the Adelaide Hat Company and Le Cornu’s factories, gathered to mark the occasion with a minute’s silence and the singing of the National Anthem (God Save the King) and The Song of Australia. Business ceased and traffic stopped for a few minutes at Port Adelaide. The town hall bell tolled and a crowd gathered to hear an address by the mayor.

At Mitcham Camp, the Camp Commandant addressed the troops after morning parade and encouraged them to pay tribute by ‘preparing themselves to emulate [the Anzacs] magnificent example’8. After the official service in the central square, four hundred soldiers enjoyed lunch as guests at the Cheer-Up Hut in the city. In the evening, services were held at various churches, including St Peter’s Cathedral and Pile Street Church.

In Gawler, on Anzac Day 1916, the heroism and sacrifice of Australian soldiers was quietly remembered. In some business premises work ceased at 9am for a few minutes of silence. At the premises of James Martin & Co. employees and managers alike observed a few minutes of silence before giving cheers for the men and the King and singing the National Anthem and God Bless our Splendid Men. During the evening, a service was held in the Congregational Church9.

God Bless Our Splendid Men
[Sung to the tune of God Save the King]
God bless our splendid men,
Send them safe home again,
God bless our men;
Keep them victorious,
Patient and chivalrous,
They are so dear to us,
God bless our men.

Leader, 4 December 1915, p. 41,, accessed, 20 November 2015.

Prospective volunteers being medically examined. Source: Australian War Memorial, A03616

‘Eligibility’ to Volunteer

Enlistment standards for World War One changed during the course of the war. When it began in August 1914, the requirements were for men to be between nineteen and thirty-eight years of age, with a minimum height of 167 centimetres (five feet six inches) and a chest measurement of eight-seven centimetres (thirty-four inches).

As the war dragged on and ‘eligible’ volunteers became more difficult to attract, the standards were changed in June 1915 to age between eighteen and forty-five years with a minimum height of 158 centimetres (five feet two inches). During the first year of war, almost thirty-three per cent of volunteers were rejected because they did not meet enlistment standards. By decreasing the requirements, the number of men who were eligible to join was increased.

At the time of enlistment, checks were made for British army tattoos that would indicate if a person was of bad character (BC) or a deserter (D)., accessed 22 December 2015.

Post Contributor: Anne Richards


1. ‘Anzac Day’, The Register, 11 January 1916, p. 5,, accessed 30 November 2015.

2. ‘Anzac Day’, The Express and Telegraph, 9 February 1916, p. 3,, accessed 30 November 2015.

3. ‘Anzac Day: No Public Holiday’, The Journal, 2 March 1916, p. 6,, accessed 30 November 2015.

4. ‘Anzac Day’, Daily Herald, 6 April 1916, p. 4,, accessed 20 November 2015.

5. ‘Celebration in Adelaide’, Chronicle, 29 April 1916, p. 41,42,, accessed 20 November 2015.

6. ‘The Gallant Anzacs’, The Journal, 25 April 1916, p. 1,, accessed 30 November 2015.

7. ‘Celebration in Adelaide’, Chronicle, 29 April 1916, p. 41,42,, accessed 20 November 2015.

8. ‘Men of Anzac’, The Advertiser, 26 April 1916, p. 7, 8,, accessed 30 November 2015.

9. ‘Anzac Day’, The Bunyip, 28 April 1916, p. 2,, accessed 20 November 2015.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s