The acronym ANZAC was coined in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops were training in Egypt. The word ANZAC was eventually applied to all Australian and New Zealand soldiers in World War 1. The term is particularly associated with the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
ANZAC Day was inaugurated on 25 April 1916 to commemorate the first anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli.
During World War 1 and World War 2, Australians were fiercely patriotic. This can best be described in the words, my country - right or wrong. The wives, mothers and girlfriends were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional values possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats which were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.
The ingredients they used were rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers' Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.
A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in air tight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.
As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women's Association), church committees, schools and other women's organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins such as Billy Tea tins. You can see some of these tins appearing in your supermarket as exact replicas of the ones of earlier years. Look around. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the atmosphere was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft.
During World War 2, with refrigeration in so many merchant navy ships, the biscuits were not made to any great extent as it was now possible to send a greater variety of food such as fruit cake.
ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans' organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans.
Compiled from information supplied by the CWA, Brisbane, the War Widows Guild, Brisbane and Queensland State Headquarters of the RSL
A Favourite Recipe
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 (three-quarters) cup coconut
125g (4 oz) butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
½ (half) teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon boiling water
Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut.
Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted.
Mix soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture, stir into dry ingredients.
Take teaspoonfuls of mixture and place on lightly greased oven trays; allow room for spreading.
Cook in slow oven (150°C or 300°F) for 20 minutes.
Loosen while still warm, then cool on trays.
Makes about 35.