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Commemorating the Anzac Day Centenary in Switzerland
Between 2014 and 2018, Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, and mark a century of service and sacrifice, encompassing all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australians have been involved. It will be the most significant period of commemoration in Australia’s history.
More than 300,000 Australians served overseas during the First World War, of whom some 60,000 lost their lives. More than any other conflict before or since. Most died on the Western Front in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918, but the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) fought its first campaign on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915. The AIF were part of the Allied force, which included troops from New Zealand, Britain and France. The aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to support Russia and force Turkey out of the war.
After the troops landed on the beach, the steep slopes of the peninsula made it extremely difficult to carry out the planned offensive. Fighting continued for eight months until finally the Anzac troops evacuated on 19-20 December 1915. The campaign was costly, with over 120,000 deaths, including 8,141 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders. The total number of Allied troops killed was over 43,000 and approximately 78,000 Turkish soldiers were killed. The anniversary of the AIF’s introduction to battle on 25 April that year, was commemorated through the war years, and every year since. Anzac Day, as it has become known, has become Australia’s national day of commemoration.
The Anzac Day Service in Switzerland, to be held at 11am on 25 April 2015 at the Commonwealth War Graves, St. Martin’s Cemetery, Vevey, will this year honour the individual stories of the two Australian and three New Zealand Servicemen who during the First World War were captured and transferred to Switzerland as prisoners of war, but tragically died before being able to be repatriated home. All were eventually laid to rest in St. Martin’s Cemetery in Vevey.