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Huge Crowds Expected for ANZAC Day Centenary as Australia Remembers Ill-fated WWI Campaign
   2015-04-30 10:20:38    Xinhua      Web Editor: Ma

Hundreds of thousands of Australians gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ANZAC day, a national day of remembering those who fought and died at Gallipoli campaign during World War I. [File Photo: Xinhua]

Hundreds of thousands of Australians will turn out across the country on Saturday to commemorate the ANZAC Day, the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign which came to define the ANZAC spirit.

Dawn services around the country will mark the beginning of the eight-month-and-a-half battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, Australia's first major military action as an independent nation.

Thousands more will honor the First World War Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) and veterans from later wars during morning marches in capital cities and country towns.

Most notably, 10,000 Australians will stand alongside New Zealanders and Turks at the site of the Gallipoli landing at ANZAC Cove exactly a century after the first ANZACs met the daunting cliffs and ruthless Turkish terrain.

The ANZAC Day has greater significance for most Australians than Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the end of the WWI despite it being the anniversary of a controversial campaign that ended being an overwhelming failure.

War historian and noted author Stuart MacIntyre told Xinhua on Friday that ANZAC Day had become bigger in the country's psyche with the passage of time.

"The ANZAC Day we have now is in a way distant from the events themselves...distant from the nature of the war," MacIntyre said.

"We went half way around the world to participate in an attack on a country we knew almost nothing about. All we knew it was allied with Germany.

"The notion that this was an invasion I don't think sort of figures in the memory of ANZAC Day."

The more successful ANZAC campaigns, Western Front battles in the French towns of Amiens and Villers-Bretonneux, will also be commemorated on Saturday but the details of these clashes have not roused public interest like the Gallipoli campaign.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is bracing for a crowd of 50,000 for its dawn service and an additional 30,000 are expected to attend the national service later in the morning.

Along with the marches and services, media events and sporting contests also feature prominently, and a crowd of 90,000 is expected to watch the annual ANZAC AFL match between Collingwood and Essendon.

The breadth of commemoration activities have advanced beyond remembering the campaign as a tragic failure, according to MacIntyre.

"As (the ANZACs) got older, they were prepared to talk about it in a way they had not been," MacIntyre said.

"It was on the 50th anniversary of the ANZAC landing that a historian, Ken Inglis, took a group of veterans back there. It was the first time they had been back in years." "The interest began to grow more rapidly in the 80s and then the 90s. There was increasing official recognition, there was increasing media interest."

"The nature of that memory had changed. There was no longer a living memory of it. Whereas the ANZAC Day in the 1920s and 30s thought of Australians fighting against an enemy and were critical of the nature of that enemy...any lingering hostility dropped away by that time."

Turks, 100 years ago the enemy, will also be welcomed at services acknowledging the battles which lie at the heart of the birth of their nation.

The significance of the day has not been lost on those wishing harm with three 18-year-old Melbourne men charged during the week over an alleged Islamic State-inspired plot targeting ANZAC Day events.

In the wake of the arrests, off-duty police at ANZAC Day services in Western Australia will, for the first time, carry firearms and police across the country and will step up security measures at memorial sites.

The arrests have undoubtedly spooked some. But the added tension will take a back seat as dawn approaches on Saturday as the nation reflects on the sacrifice made by the first ANZACs and the troops who followed, in their courageous quest for peace.

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