The Anzac Day ceremony of 25 April is rich in tradition and ritual. It is a form of military funeral and follows a particular pattern. The day's ceremonies have two major parts: one at dawn and another, more public event, later in the morning.

The dawn service

A typical commemoration begins with a march by returned service personnel before dawn to the local war memorial. Military personnel and returned servicemen and women form up about the memorial, joined by other members of the community. Pride of place goes to war veterans.

A short service follows with a prayer, hymns (including Kipling's 'Recessional' or 'Lest we forget') and a dedication that concludes with the fourth verse of Laurence Binyon's For the Fallen:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The last post is then played, and this is followed by a minute's silence and the reveille. A brief address follows, after which the hymn 'Recessional' is sung. The service concludes with a prayer and the singing of the national anthem.

The Anzac parade

Another ceremony takes place later on the morning of 25 April. Returned service personnel wear their medals and march behind banners and standards. The veterans are joined by other community groups, including members of the armed forces, the Red Cross, cadets, and veterans of other countries' forces.

The march proceeds to the local war memorial. Another service takes place there, and  various organisations and members of the public lay wreaths. This service is a more public commemoration than the dawn service. It is less intimate and less emotional. The speech, usually by a dignitary, serviceman or returned serviceman or woman, can stress nationhood and remembrance.

After these services many of the veterans retire to the local Returned and Services' Association (RSA) club or hotel, where they enjoy coffee and rum (in the case of the dawn service) and unwind after an emotionally and, for elderly veterans, physically exhausting event. At the end of the day, the ceremony of the retreat is performed.

How to cite this page

'The ceremony', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/anzac-day/overview, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 28-Mar-2013