ANZAC is the acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corps created in December 1914 when the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force were stationed together in Egypt under the command of Lieutenant-General William Birchwood.
It likely began as a reference to the corps on a rubber stamp and later was taken on as the code word for the corps used on telegraphs, the main form of war communication at the time.
The Anzacs made their operational debut at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 at a small cove where the Australian and New Zealand troops landed. The term ‘Anzac’ quickly became the word used to describe not only the small cove where they landed, but also the word referring to all Australian and New Zealand troops who fought on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Eventually any Australian or New Zealand soldier in the war would be referred to as an Anzac soldier. On the Western Front there were two Anzac corps – the New Zealand Division served in the II ANZAC Corps until early 1918 and during the Sinai-Palestine campaign a combined Australia New Zealand Mounted Division were commonly known as the Anzac Mounted Division.
Later in WWII an Anzac Corps was formed in Greece 1941 and again even later in the Vietnam War with an Anzac Battalion when the infantry from both countries combined.
Post WWI Anzac was a term used for all kinds of items from biscuits to buttons with many shrewd entrepreneurs recognising the commercial advantages of the name and as a result on 31 August 1916 the word ‘Anzac’ was protected by law to prevent its exploitation for business or trade purposes.
Today the word Anzac signifies the patriotic spirit of courage and sacrifice and the connotation of kinship between Australia and New Zealand.
In both Australia and New Zealand Anzac Day on 25 April is the main day of remembrance for the fallen in all wars.
Taken from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History edited by Ian McGibbon and Paul Goldstone.