The Scots and ANZAC

25 April is ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in both Australia and New Zealand. The ANZAC tradition goes back to the First World War, specifically Gallipoli, and originally commemorated the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. More recently it has become the central commemorative occasion in Australia and New Zealand that honours those who served and those who died in service.

Scottish traces have long since been visible among those honouring the fallen and those who served in the Australian or New Zealand military. The picture on the left, for example, shows a Highland band in a 1951 ANZAC Day parade in Australia, but there were also many Scottish regiments actively involved in the fighting. Scottish associations in Australia and New Zealand supported the establishment of such regiments. With the Boer War looming large, for example, a Scottish regiment was formed in South Australia ‘in addition to the Victorian Defence Force’ (South Australian Register, 7 May 1898), while volunteers for it were sought in 1940 to augment its force to 1000 (The Advertiser, 31 July 1940).

The tradition of Scottish regiments connects to the Scots’ role as soldiers of the British imperial armies – in Africa and beyond. With the famous Black Watch at the helm, Scottish regiments were conspicuous, making a name as empire-builders. Clad in Highland kilts, the Scottish soldier was easily spotted in the visual record. It was in the visual record, in fact, that one of the central ways in which Scots could play out their national identity on an imperial stage was reflected. This tradition still plays its part today, in the Commonwealth as much as in Scotland itself.

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