For Australians and New Zealanders, Anzac Day is without a doubt one of the most important dates of the year; a time to remember those who went into battle to defend what we love and experience every day and to pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.
While many will get up in the morning before sunrise for the traditional dawn service, others will embark on a much larger and adventurous pilgrimage to the other ends of the globe, and for some it will be very much a sombre occasion for a major anniversary.
June 6, 1944 was a day that changed the world forever.
It was the day of D-Day landings in Normandy, when the allied forces began to liberate Europe from the Nazi regime. An important part of not just Anzac history but the world, D-Day is considered by many to be the turning point of World War II.
2019 will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the landings and will see nearly 300 people clad in WWII replica uniforms parachuting into key drop spots from historic DC-3 and C-47 aircraft to replicate jumpers during the war.
Alongside this will be re-enactments of camp life, an opening of the press room from which war reports worked and even “liberty ball,” dances with era-appropriate swing music and Lindy hop dancing on full day display.
For children, there will be firework displays, historic vehicle parades and even a full exhibition on the Comanche tribe, a native American tribe and major influence for Jack Kirby – Creator of Marvel Comic’s character Captain America.
Commemorations will run throughout early June. If you are after an organised tour group to take you around the region, I suggest Back-Roads Touring as they specialise in tours of battlefields and has tours for Anzac Day and also in early June in time for the D-Day festivities.
Alternatively, if you would prefer to visit Normandy for the traditional Anzac Day ceremony, the commemoration is held at Villers-Bretonneux in Somme; a commune that houses the Australian War Memorial Cemetery, housing the graves of more than 770 Australian and Commonwealth soldiers.
The origin point of the day’s importance, Anzac Cove will forever be an integral part in the history of both nation’s identities and where Australia and New Zealand earned their names as enduring nations.
Iconic is the word to describe the pilgrimage people make every year to walk the trail upon which our ancestors fought the Central Powers along the coast of Gallipoli, culminating with the arrival at Anzac Cove where travellers unravel their sleeping bags to sleep under the stars in preparation for the dawn service the next day.
Though security check-points have become more thorough in recent years, it is now easier than ever to book an organised tour to correspond with Anzac Day, or as part of exploring Turkey as a whole. Companies such as Intrepid Travel and On The Go Tours have trips that range in lengths from overnight return journeys from Istanbul to extended 15-day plus tours of Turkey.
Long Tan (Vietnam)
Besides the wars in the Middle-East, Vietnam is the most recent war Australia and New Zealand have taken part in. The controversial war still incites debates today about its existence and the participation of Anzacs in it, however, one thing everyone can agree on is that the war was certainly memorable.
While New Zealand did not play a key role in the conflict, Australia certainly did. In particular, the Battle of Long Tan is regarded as one of the most successful battles in Australian history, with the 1st Australian Task Force fending off the Viet Cong who out-numbered them 10:1.
With the large amount of Vietnam veterans in Australia, Long Tan is held in high regard as a key part of the Vietnam War and is one of the key sites for international Anzac ceremonies.
If you are looking to go overseas for Anzac Day on a budget – this is the option for you. Vietnam is well known for being an affordable country, despite the requirement of Visas. Tour company Wendy Wu Tours offers all-inclusive holidays, including flights, 3 to 4 star hotel accommodation, most meals and, most importantly, Visas – something unique to Wendy Wu’s inclusions. Alternatively, On The Go Tours can provide day-trips from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Kokoda Trek (Papua New Guinea)
In 1942, Australia was defending the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby from the Japanese advancement. This was done in some of the most remote and, still to this day, unexplored jungle in the world in extreme conditions. The hardships the Anzacs faced in this campaign are well documented and regarded, and has become a challenge for people looking to experience spiritual and difficult journeys of self-discovery or tribute.
Those who undertake the 96km trek often find themselves sleeping in secluded jungle camps in the midst of the jungle in the untouched Owen Stanley Ranges. These camps are often close to traditional villages with locals who have not had much contact or experience of the outside world besides trekkers. The villages are often home to memorials of the soldiers who had fallen during war.
Being such a gruelling and dangerous trek, it is highly recommended to hike the Kokoda trek with an experienced guide as part of a preferred touring company, such as World Expeditions. Regarded as experts in organised hiking and trekking holidays, World Expeditions have two journeys that coincide with Anzac Day.
All images: Getty Images