Today is ANZAC Day, one of the most solemn and significant days on the Australian and New Zealand calendars. Originally a commemoration for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) who fought at Gallipoli during World War I, today it also honours all those who served and died for their country during military operations.
It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in 1915, as part of World War I. The Gallipoli Campaign took place on a peninsula near the Dardanelles in what is now Turkey, and was an attempt by the British and French to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), and secure a safe route to Russia. The attempt was a failure for the Allies, and resulted in the loss of many lives.
While great military victories are often commemorated as national days of celebration, Australia and New Zealand instead remember this bitter military failure. Although Australia had been independent for thirteen years, and New Zealand for seven, when World War I broke out, many in both countries still thought of themselves as British (they had been, only a few years previous), and had a great deal of faith in the British Empire.
The miserable failure of the Gallipoli Campaign did much to shake that faith in British superiority. The stories of courage and heroism from the ANZACs bolstered a feeling of national pride, and a national identity which until then had been lacking. It is popularly said that although Australia officially became a nation in 1901, we only psychologically separated ourselves from Britain in 1915.
There is a long tradition of giving children a name to honour military events, and Anzac is another of these. Although the name Anzac is protected by the government to ensure it is not misused, it is permitted to use it on people. It would make a very patriotic name, especially for a child born on or near ANZAC Day.
Through reading the historical records, Anzac seems to have been most often given as a middle name. When used as a first name, it was almost always given to boys. As a middle name, it was much more even, but still more often given to boys than girls.
Although there seems to be have been a spate of baby Anzacs after the Gallipoli Campaign, it is a name still in use today, and I last saw a baby named Anzac in a birth announcement less than two years ago (a boy). For girls, Anne or Annie could be used as a nickname, and Zac seems most likely for a boy.
Some Anzac Name Combinations From the World War I Era
Alma Anzac Myrtle
Anzac Cavel Vardon
Verdun Anzac Jane
Anzac Gallipoli Claude
Vivian Anzac Jasper
William Anzac France
Thank you to Larkin for suggesting the name Anzac back in early December, and waiting so patiently for ANZAC Day to arrive so that it could be covered!
(Image shows the Beach Cemetery at Anzac Cove, containing the remains of allied troops who died during the Battle of Gallipoli. Most of the graves are from the Australian Imperial Forces, and the first graves were dug here on the day of landing, April 25 1915)