You are in site section: Exhibitions

Spirit of the Digger

Spirit of the Digger

As a way of looking at our defining moments in history, Nation explores the story of Anzac Day. It reveals the birth of the Anzac legend, its establishment in the national psyche, and its enduring legacy as a unifying link in our chain of identity and memory.

Learn how the digger got his name and about the emotional forces that propelled his status from soldier to national icon.

Ponder the notion of personal sacrifice and mourning, and review objects such as sweetheart brooches (jewellery, usually purchased overseas, sent to lovers back home), that remind us of the distance that war places between loved ones. Read diaries and letters written to parents by commanding officers that capture both the heartache and heroism of the times.

Read how Anzac Day was born, and why war memorials hold a special place in the Australian heart.

Anzac spirit

When Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915 many believed and still do that we really became a nation. This was the first major land action involving Australians in the First World War.

The Australian Government was quick to use the symbolic power of the Anzac legend. The example of Gallipoli was invoked in First World War recruitment films such as We of the AIF.

News from the front

The first newspaper report of the Gallipoli landing to reach Australia was written by British journalist, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. His glowing descriptions of the performance of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers helped create the legend of the Anzacs.

Army buglers at dawn, 1943
Buglers at dawn, 1943. Photo courtesy: Australian War Memorial 138753

Anzac Day: Lest we forget

Each year, ceremonies and parades are held around Australia in recognition of the sacrifice of Australian servicemen and servicewomen.

Anzac Day provides an opportunity for soldiers, families and all Australians to mourn and publicly remember those who gave their lives during war. Increasingly, many young Australians are also attending Anzac Day services.

War memorials: We shall remember them

War memorial, Braidwood, 1997
War memorial, Braidwood, 1997. Photo: Terry Milligan, Stillpoint Photographics

In the past, grieving Australian communities erected memorials to their war dead. These included statues, avenues of trees and rolls of honour. Australia has more First World War memorials per head of population than any other country. Perhaps this is because so many men were buried overseas and the memorials are seen to represent their graves.