The Real ANZAC Biscuit Story
Last Updated: 6th April 2016.
“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.” From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.
Does this bring to mind images of our troops at Gallipoli eating the ANZAC biscuits we know and love today? Staff at the National Army Museum did some research and found that contrary to popular belief there were no ANZAC biscuits at Gallipoli. The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock hard tooth breaker also called the ship’s ANZAC biscuit.
Although it’s a myth that ANZAC biscuits were sent and eaten by troops in Gallipoli, some evidence suggests a rolled oats biscuit was sent to troops on the Western Front, although this was not widespread.
The majority of rolled oats based biscuits were in fact sold and consumed at fetes, galas, parades and other public events at home, to raise funds for the war effort. This connection to the troops serving overseas led to them being referred to as ‘soldier’s biscuits’. Fundraising was co-ordinated by local Patriotic Funds, raising 6.5 million pounds for the New Zealand war effort.
The basic ingredients for a rolled oat biscuit were: rolled oats, sugar, flour, butter with golden syrup used as a binding agent (no eggs). This made them not only nutritious and full of energy but also long-lasting.
After Gallipoli, New Zealand and Australian troops were universally known as ANZACs. The term ANZAC soon became of great national significance, so much so that in 1916 to save the ANZAC legend from exploitation, the name became protected by law.
It is fitting then, that after WWI, the most popular rolled oat biscuit had the name and association of ANZAC applied to it and thus the legend of the ANZAC biscuit began. The first mention in a cookbook of ANZAC biscuits was in 1921.
Discover the stories behind other fascinating NZ army memorabilia and military artefacts on display and in the history archives at the National Army Museum.