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Anzac Day

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

April 25th of each year is Anzac Day.

Anzac Day is a day set aside in Australia and New Zealand to honor the Anzac Forces who fought and died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the First World War. “Anzac” stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The Anzac forces landed on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 where they engaged the enemy, and that campaign carried on in battle for Eight Months; the actual battle lasted eight months.

The casualties were 33,000, including 8,000 New Zealanders and 7,000 Australians. Out of the 10,000 New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli 3,000 were killed and 5,000 were wounded, there were also over 7,000 Australians who were killed or wounded: All this in an Eight-Month Battle. So you can see why April 25th is set aside as Anzac Day to honor the Veterans of that battle.

April 25th was first recognized as Anzac Day in 1916. I’m, told a typical Anzac Day Service would begin with Hymns and Prayers, it would include an address by someone on the history, and significance of what Anzac Day is commemorating, the Laying of Wreaths, and the singing of the National Anthem. Not unlike the services put on in the U.S.A. by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars for Memorial Day, and Veterans Day.

Back in June of 2002 I got an informative E-mail from Most Worshipful Brother Donald M. Severson, Grand Master of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota in 1978-79 the following is some of what he wrote to me:

“In 1979, during my year as Grand Master, I had the opportunity to represent The Grand Lodge of Minnesota at an International Masonic Festival held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. ”Needless to say, there were many exciting and educational events held during this ten day event, including the dedication of a new Masonic Temple in downtown Sydney, preceded by a huge, grand procession through the streets of downtown Sydney. Thousands of Masons in full regalia; What a magnificent sight!!! Eighteen sitting Grand Masters along with the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales led the procession.”A highlight was the occasion of being personally introduced to an elderly Brother of a local Lodge, that was visited in a group, as part of the Grand Lodge program. I had noticed earlier in the evening that he was treated with great deference and respect. I inquired as to his status: Past Master; Past Grand Officer? - None of the above. I was then escorted to him by the W.M. of the Lodge and formally introduced. He was a veteran/survivor of the Battle of Gallipoli!!! I was astounded and humbled at the opportunity to meet this Brother. It was like meeting and shaking hands with General John J. Pershing or President Theodore Roosevelt, going back in time so to speak.

”Australian and New Zealand veterans are held in very high esteem in their respective countries.”It was 23 years ago this last March, [March 2002] and I still look back on my year and this event with great pleasure.”[i]

The last of the original members of the Anzac Forces to die was Albert Edward Matthews. He was called Ted. He was born November 11, 1896 and died December 09, 1997 at the age of 101; he was the last original member of the Anzac forces who landed on Gallipoli on April 15th 1915.

Ted Matthews was quoted on his 101st Birthday as saying that he left school at 14 to become a carpenter. When he was 17 it was his knowledge of Morse Code that got him an early entry to 1st Division Signals. "I signed up when I was young and impulsive and stupid" Mr. Matthews said. He was 18 when he landed at Gallipoli, and he would not have seen his 19th birthday if he had not been carrying a thick pocketbook his mother gave him. “It bore the brunt of Turkish shrapnel in the chest a few hours after landing.”[ii]

“Not only was he one of the first ashore at Gallipoli but he was one of the last to leave after the aborted eight month campaign that left 11,410 Anzacs dead. He saw out the entire four years of WWI later serving in France and Belgium.”[iii]Out of the Battle of Gallipoli came something that is called “Anzac Biscuits.” The Anzac Biscuit was a cookie that the Soldiers of the Anzac Forces had for snacks; it was something sweet and nourishing they could carry with them while on the line and in camp. There are a couple of stories on how these cookies came to be.

One version is that the women “Back Home” would make them and sell them to raise money for the assistance of the veterans when they returned home. However, when they were purchased many of the cookies, if not most of them, were sent to the Anzac Troops by their Families.

Another version is that the Army Cooks invented them out of the materials they had on hand in camp to make something like dessert for the Anzac troops. One thing that both versions of the legend of the Anzac Biscuits have in common is that the Anzac Biscuit is a ‘tough cookie’ that is made out of simple ingredients.

Being that the Anzac Biscuit was a ‘Tough Cookie,’ it could be packed and shipped from “home” to the front and get there in fairly good shape even if the package was not handled to gently. Also, for the other version of the story is that, being a ‘Tough Cookie’ made from simple ingredients that an Army Cook would have on hand; a Soldier could put some of the Anzac Biscuits in his pocket or his pack and carry it with him in battle and when time permitted he could have a snack of something that would still be intact, and taste good.

Well, no matter which story of the origin one might have a preference for, the Anzac Biscuit is a Great Cookie that is enjoyed by all.

The recipe is not complicated and it uses ingredients that are found in most kitchens. Because of the lack of space here I wont include it, but you can find it on my Recipe Site at When you get to the site, click on Cookies then printout the recipe for Anzac Biscuits and also for Cane Syrup; Cane Syrup is needed for the Anzac Biscuit Recipe. You might want to explore the site; there could be other recipes you’ll like too.

There is time to make the Anzac Biscuits to have to commemorate Anzac Day and when you do you will be enjoying some of the same ‘good eats’ the men of the Anzac Forces had on Gallipoli in 1915. So you have a good recipe to try and a little information about Anzac Day.

[i] E-mail 06/04/02 Donald M. Severson Sr.
[iii] ibid

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Last modified: March 22, 2014