First Anzac Day

25 April 1916

Anzac day commemoration at Petone, 1916 (Alexander Turnbull Library, APG-0589-1/2-G)

Communities across New Zealand and overseas gathered to commemorate the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. New Zealand observed a half-day holiday from 1 p.m., with ceremonies held throughout the country. The mood was solemn; race meetings were deferred and cinemas stayed shut until late afternoon.

The first Anzac Day provided an opportunity for the country’s political leaders to remind young men of their duty to volunteer for war service. Prime Minister William Massey concluded a speech at Wellington’s Town Hall by calling for more young men to come forward for King and country.

Large crowds attended local ceremonies; there were 2000 at a religious service in Ashburton and around 8000 at the dedication of a memorial flagpole at Petone railway station. At Tīnui in Wairarapa, locals erected a large cross on top of a hill overlooking the village.

New Zealanders took part in commemorative activities in Malta, Egypt and London, where crowds lined the streets to watch 2000 New Zealand and Australian soldiers march to Westminster Abbey for a commemorative service.

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