Anzac Biscuits

illustrations illustrations illustrations illustrations illustrations illustrations illustrations

Published on 25 April 2024 by Andrew Owen (3 minutes)

Anzac Day is the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for those who died while serving in the armed forces of those nations. It is observed on April 25 each year, marking the anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 during the First World War. In Dublin, since 2006 the annual dawn service has taken place in Grangegorman Military Cemetery. It’s hosted jointly by representatives of the Irish, Australian and New Zealand governments and is open to the public. I first learned about Anzac Day from an Australian colleague while working on a local newspaper in the south west of England. I observed it while working on an Australian ship in 2003. But it wasn’t until I got to New Zealand in 2004 that I found out I had a family connection.

A distant relative of mine (my mother’s father’s uncle) called Stephen Brand emigrated from England to Australia in the early 1900s. At the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps as a private and was promptly shipped back to Europe. He survived Gallipoli and two tours of duty in France. After the war, he settled in New Zealand. He never spoke about his wartime experiences. He died without heirs and is buried in the soldier’s cemetery in Napier. Before I got there, all I knew was where he was buried. His gravestone included his serial number (1321) and battalion (9th Australian Infantry). And that enabled me to begin to uncover his war record.

After his death, his medals were returned to Australia. Unclaimed, some of them eventually made their way to the Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum in Queensland. And as a result of this, as of 2017 he has an entry on the accompanying ANZAC Biographies website. By a strange turn of events, my parents ended up staying in the hotel in Egypt which had previously been the hospital that he had been sent to from Cairo. But not all of his medals were accounted for. So when I met Australian military attaché to Ireland Corporal Sue Graham at the 2019 service, I asked if she could provide any assistance in tracking them down. She graciously agreed and was able to provide some additional information:

  • The museum holds the MiD certificate and the British War Medal. They were purchased at Noble auction #55, 23 Oct 1997, lot 71.
  • Museum director John Meyers advised that while attending the Military Historical Society convention in Melbourne in 1998, he saw a framed display of the MM & bar. It was displayed by a Melbourne collector who has since died. He contacted the collector’s widow, but she did not know the current location of the display.

When I get back to Australia, I’ll be sure to pay the museum a visit. But this is the recipes section, so on to the biscuits. It is thought that they were sent to soldiers serving in Europe by mothers, wives and girlfriends. As in all things, Australia and New Zealand dispute the origin (they are probably Scottish). But the earliest recipe that resembles the modern one was published in the 8th edition of the “St. Andrew’s Cookery Book” in New Zealand in 1919. I got this recipe in New Zealand in 2004.

Primary ingredients

  • 180 g rolled oats
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 400 g brown sugar
  • 90 g dedicated coconut

Binding agent

  • 250 g butter
  • 4 tbspn golden syrup
  • 2 tbspn water
  • 3/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda

Mix the primary ingredients in a bowl. Mix the binding agent in a pan over a low heat. When consitent, combine with the primary ingredients. Bake at 190 °C for 30 minutes.