ANZAC Day origins

Published by The Garland Collection on

ABOVE: Flanked by returned servicemen, and friends and relatives of the 300 ANZACs interred in Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery is Canon Garland in full Church of England clerical regalia on the sixth-ever ANZAC Day – Monday, 25 April 1921. Canon Garland devised solemn commemorative services which placed a special emphasis on the debt of gratitude owed to the Fallen of the Great War for their sacrifice and devotion to duty in the defence of King and Country. This image appeared on page six of Harry John Charles Diddams’ “ANZAC Commemoration 1921: A Brief History of The Movement. Sermons and Addresses Delivered Throughout Queensland. The Immortal Story of the Landing (Illustrated)”, produced on behalf of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland Incorporated, paperback, Brisbane, October 1921. Below is an excerpt from same… 


A Short History of the
great movement in Queensland.

QUEENSLAND has taken the lead in the celebration of this day, on which Australia, by the valour of her sons, became entitled through an ordeal of blood, fire and suffering to take her place among the great nations of the world, and to stand on equal terms with those peoples, both past and present, who have given of their best that humanity might benefit.

From the first inception of the celebration the keynote was the solemn remembrance before Almighty God of the heroic dead.

In addition, the public were urged never to forget the great debt they owed to those who have lost their dear ones, and to those sailors and soldiers who have returned after deeds of unsurpassed courage and daring on every field in which the Empire and her Allies fought for the rights of a free people.

That the day should be suitably commemorated was suggested by Mr. T.A. Ryan [ Thomas Augustine Ryan ] to Colonel the Hon. A.J. Thynne [ Andrew Joseph Thynne ], Chairman of the State Recruiting Committee, which body then took the matter up, with the result that a meeting, called by the Mayor (Alderman G. Down) [ George Down ], was held in the Brisbane Exhibition Hall on January 10th, 1916, and the citizens then assembled constituted the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee.

There were present, among many others:

Of the resolutions passed at this foundation meeting the first proposed by His Excellency the Governor, and seconded by the Hon. T.J. Ryan, was that:

“That the heroic conduct of our gallant Queensland troops during the present war, and especially on that ever-memorable occasion of the landing at Gallipoli on April 25th last, has earned for them undying fame, and deserves the fullest recognition by the people of this country, whose rights and liberties they have been bravely defending.”

The second, proposed by Major-General McCay, and seconded by Mr. Tolmie, was:

“That, in the opinion of this meeting, it is desirable that the first anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli shall be suitably celebrated in this State, and that the other States of Australia be invited to consider similar action.

The third, proposed by Chaplain-Colonel Garland, and seconded by Colonel Rankin, was:

“That a committee be appointed to make all the necessary arrangements for and carry out the celebration of ANZAC Day, such committee to consist of the Mayors of Brisbane and South Brisbane, the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chairman and Honorary Secretaries of the Queensland Recruiting Committee, and Alderman H.J. Diddams, C.M.G., [ Harry John Charles Diddamsrepresenting the Patriotic Fund Committee, with power to add to their number.”

These resolutions were carried by the meeting with the utmost enthusiasm.

The first meeting of the Committee was held in the Premier’s office where all subsequent meetings have been held on 3 February 1916, the Premier (the Hon. T.J. Ryan) occupying the chair.

It was decided to communicate with the other States in terms of the resolution from the Exhibition meeting and request co-operation on behalf of the State of Queensland.

Canon Garland was appointed Honorary Secretary, and was requested to draw up suggestions for the observance.

At the next meeting the original Committee was enlarged by the inclusion of the heads of all religious denominations, the senior Military Chaplains, six Members of Parliament, three to be nominated by the Premier and three by the Leader of the Opposition the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University, the Under-Secretary for Public Instruction, the Presidents of the National Societies, St. George, the Caledonians, the Irish, the Overseas Club, and the Australian Natives’ Association, also the Military and Naval Commandants.

With a few additions, such as representatives of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ organisations, the Fathers’ Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Employers’ Federation, the representative character of the Committee has remained unchanged, and it can be regarded as a strong endorsement of the form of celebration that this Committee have met regularly and carried out the observances so successfully for five years, maintaining the character of the initial meetings.

At the third meeting, held on 18 February, Canon Garland submitted the proposed form of celebration, which was adopted, and which has remained practically unchanged, this being a striking tribute to the originator, who had so truly gauged the desires of Queenslanders regarding the celebration.

The Canon’s suggestions included the minute’s reverent silence, which has become a feature not only of this observance but also throughout the Empire, a tribute of homage to the glorious dead.

The celebrations in Westminster Abbey and elsewhere in London in 1916 were due to representations made by this Committee.

The resolutions to be submitted at the various evening meetings were also adopted.
With the changing of events these have of course been somewhat varied, but they still express the resolutions which were passed by the first meeting at the Exhibition.

It was decided by the Committee that no collection should be made on Anzac Day, but that badges to commemorate the celebration should be worn; the badge was designed to perpetuate in symbolism the heroism of the Anzacs.

ANZAC Day falling on St. Mark’s Day, the winged lion of St. Mark was chosen as symbolic of superhuman strength; the Queensland crest – a  cross upon which a crown is imposed, surrounded by laurel leaves – was added as in itself also appropriate.

The motto “Audax at Fidelis” ( Brave yet faithful ), Queensland’s motto, was adopted as most suitable.

The badge is still being sold, and is a replica of that used on the first celebration.

Despite the decision to make no prot, it was found that citizens were insistent on paying more than the cost of the badges; the proceeds of the first celebration were intended to defray the cost of the care of the graves in Gallipoli, a purpose which, by the action of the Graves Commission, has been rendered unnecessary; other proceeds have been utilised for the care of Queensland graves, except when the day’s takings were given to the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League, who were collecting for the building of memorial halls; and this year [ 1921 ] the proceeds were handed to the National ANZAC Memorial Fund, an object which realises the ideals of the Committee.

The first celebration was marked by the receipt of a message from His Majesty the King, at the expense of the late Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, which message was engraved on marble and erected in the Executive Buildings.

The programme of the celebration gives ample opportunity for everyone, irrespective of creed or politics, to take part in the observance.

Requiem or memorial services are held in the early morning by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Churches, and later in the day by every denomination throughout the whole State.

The evening meetings, which are of an essentially solemn nature, give an opportunity for people of all denominations to gather together and pay in a solemn manner their tribute to the dead, while renewing their promise to support and show sympathy to the living.

This year arrangements were made for the placing of flowers on the graves of soldiers and the holding of a short service in the cemeteries, an innovation which was remarkably successful and detracted in no way from the attendance at services in the churches.

In future it will be made a part of the programme for the celebration.

From information received by the Committee, it would seem that there is no week day in the year on which the churches of all denominations are so well attended as on ANZAC Day.

The Committee’s attitude on the proclaiming of a public holiday on April 25th has been found by experience to be correct, as it was felt that to allow an unrestricted holiday would cause a day which should be observed most solemnly to become one of amusement and sport.

The arrangements have been that all returned soldiers have been allowed the day off by both Federal and State Governments.

Private employers have been equally considerate, their employees being given permission to attend the church service, and business houses and licensed premises have been closed during these morning services.

The Committee supports a public holiday on the lines recently introduced in New Zealand, where by legislation race meetings and sports gatherings are prohibited, and licensed premises are closed on ANZAC Day.

The question will be brought before the next Premiers’ conference, and as the Imperial League and many other large organisations share the Committee’s views, there is no doubt these views will receive the greatest consideration.

Notable in the history of the movement is the request with reference to ANZAC Square, embodied in the following resolution, passed at the meeting held on June 30th, 1916:–

“That this Committee take practical steps to have the proposed Square in front of the railway station called ANZAC Square, and to have a place reserved thereon for an ANZAC monument; that the Federal Government be asked to make the above a condition of the gift; that the Hon. H.F. Hardacre, the Mayor of Brisbane, and Mr. W.F. Finlayson, M.H.R., be written to accordingly.”

Now, after nearly five years, the efforts of Queensland citizens through their representatives appear to be on the eve of success, and the formation of an ANZAC Square with a Cenotaph erected in the centre will be a national memorial not unworthy of those who died that their fellow citizens of this great Empire should live in freedom.

On numerous occasions the Committee have asked the Commonwealth Government to give a definite undertaking that the graves of deceased soldiers will be properly cared for.

Those which urgently required attention have been looked after by the Committee, but it is not possible for them to assume so great a responsibility as the care of all Queensland soldiers’ graves, especially as the duty rightly belongs to the Commonwealth Government.

Our representations promise to be successful, and the Defence Department is collecting the necessary information.

The success of the Committee’s effort has been materially assisted by the loyal co-operation of the people of Queensland as a whole, and especially by the action of the churches in providing a religious atmosphere and maintaining a spirit of solemnity.

In the opinion of the Committee this is the only manner in which the memory of those who died for us can be commemorated worthily.

The Federal and State Governments, in allowing returned soldiers and other employees the necessary time off, made it possible for them to attend the celebrations.

Recognition is due to the State Government, which has not only assisted by providing all necessary printing, but through the Department of Public Instruction makes ANZAC Day a day of solemn celebration throughout the schools, the articles in the School Paper proving of great help.

Recognition is also due to the Railway Department, which has granted concession tickets and has helped in many other ways.

Thanks are also due to the employers, traders, and licensed victuallers, who have given their employees concessions similar to those of the Government, closing their premises during the hours of service; to the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League, which has joined heartily with the Committee; to the Press, both metropolitan and country, which has done yeoman service; to the local authorities and their representatives; to those in every district in the State who have so loyally supported the celebration of ANZAC Day in its original form, a form which it is sincerely hoped will remain unchanged, and will become uniform and permanent throughout the Commonwealth.

ABOVE: The frontispiece to Harry John Charles Diddams’ “ANZAC Commemoration 1921: A Brief History of The Movement. Sermons and Addresses Delivered Throughout Queensland. The Immortal Story of the Landing (Illustrated)”, produced on behalf of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland Incorporated, paperback, Brisbane, October 1921. From the State Library of Queensland (John Oxley Memorial Library Collection).

Image of Diddams' ADCCQ booklet release in October 1921.

ABOVE: “The Telegraph” of 29 October 1921 (page 11) notes the release the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland’s booklet, compiled by Harry Diddams.