Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand, a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name. When war broke out in 1914, Australia and New Zealand had been dominions of the British Empire for thirteen and seven years respectively.
On 30 April 1915, when the first news of the landing reached New Zealand, a half-day holiday was declared and impromptu services were held.
In South Australia, Eight Hour Day, 13 October 1915 was renamed "Anzac Day" and a carnival was organised to raise money for the Wounded Soldiers Fund.
The date 25 April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916; in that year it was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia and New Zealand, including a commemorative march through London involving Australian and New Zealand troops. In New Zealand it was gazetted as a half-day holiday. Australian Great War battalion and brigade war diaries show that on this first anniversary, units including those on the front line, made efforts to solemnise the memory of those who were killed this day twelve months previously. A common format found in the war diaries by Australian and New Zealand soldiers for the day commenced with a dawn requiem mass, followed mid-morning with a commemorative service, and after lunch organised sports activities with the proceeds of any gambling going to Battalion funds. This occurred in Egypt as well.
One of the traditions of Anzac Day is the 'gunfire breakfast' (coffee with rum added) which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies, and recalls the 'breakfast' taken by many soldiers before facing battle.