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On the 25th of April, 1915, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand landed on a remote beach on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli. It was hoped they would defeat the Turkish army swiftly and change the course of the First World War. But, after a bloody and fruitless eight months, the troops were evacuated and the campaign deemed a failure.

Though the Gallipoli campaign itself achieved little, it was responsible for one of the most enduring elements of Australian culture, the Anzac legend. April 25 was declared Anzac Day in 1916 and every year since, thousands of people have come to that same beach to commemorate their sacrifice. The Anzac Day service at Gallipoli is a once in a lifetime experience.

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Anzac Military Cemetery in Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is around five hours from the Turkish capital of Istanbul and almost all attendees for the service come as part of an organised tour as there is almost no public transport available. As space is limited, tours book out very quickly so it is a good idea to plan your trip up to 12 months in advance. It is essentially impossible to simply arrive on the day and attend.

To be in place in time for the dawn service, most tours will arrive the night before and guests will sleep under the stars. In previous years, some attendees have chosen to drink heavily and have failed to treat the site with the proper respect. Authorities have cracked down on this and alcohol is now prohibited on the site. The crowds are kept entertained overnight by the Australian Army and Navy Band as well as choirs.

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Anzac Memorial in Gallipoli.

The services begin as the sun rises over the battlefield. There is a minute’s silence and the Last Post is played, as well as the national anthems of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Once the wreaths have been laid, guests can attend the individual country services held around the site. Spend the rest of the day exploring the many cemeteries and memorials around the site.

Have you ever attended the Gallipoli dawn service? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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