The Gallipoli campaign in WWI is a hugely important event in Australian and New Zealand history. 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the landings and there are huge commemorations planned to mark the occasion.

This seems quite odd to me as the campaign was a complete failure. Even stranger still is that Australian accomplishments on the Western Front such as the Battle of Hamel are barely mentioned despite it being a brilliant victory that had a huge influence on Allied tactics for the rest of the war.

My question is are there any other famous defeats celebrated with a similar enthusiasm?

It seems for the most part they tend to be swept under the rug such as when I visited the Naval museum in St. Petersburg and saw how little space was allotted to the catastrophe that was the Battle of Tsushima.

The only two that spring to mind are the Charge of the Light Brigade which didn't strictly end in defeat for the British and the Battle of Thermopylae which some have considered a Pyrrhic victory for the Persians (though this interpretation appears to have fallen out of favour).

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    Strictly speaking the defeat at Gallipoli is commemorated, and not celebrated (except in the sense of being famous). The affair is generally solemn, not festive. Granted you may interpret ANZAC Day itself as being celebratory, but that holiday has expanded in scope over the last 100 years, since Gallipoli was the crucible in which the two dominions forged their national identity. I think this question as worded is primarily opinion based, and a list question.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 3:46
  • Sadly ANZAC day has always been celebrated, as part of state ideology. Commemoration seems to be a form of resistance and self-expression. Castigation has also been a response. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 3:53
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    the alamo? dunkirk?
    – pugsville
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 3:54
  • 1
    Fair point Semaphore... maybe glorified is a better word? Either way it is most definitely not lamented in my experience. The pointless tragedy is significantly underplayed compared to the noble sacrifice. I think the Alamo might be another good example, thanks Pugs.
    – Jasta
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 4:19
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    The charge of the light brigade? Of course it was not a battle, but only an action during a battle...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


People commemorate important events even when they were failures - for various reasons.


Often they need a rallying point - an inspiring example for the war which is yet to be fought.

E.g., the Battle of Chemulpo Bay was a resounding defeat for the Russians. The official Russian propaganda turned that into a momentous act of heroism. The Russian survivors were treated as heroes. Instead of being dismissed for incompetence, Rudnev was decorated and promoted.

"Remember the Alamo" became the rallying cry for the Texians who were defeated there (this also fits into the next category, "bravery").


Other times, the defeated fought so bravely, that it should be commemorated regardless of the outcome.

Battle of Thermopylae was a Persian victory. Needless to say it is widely commemorated.

Russians view Sevastopol as their "Hero City", despite losing it (after resisting heroically) twice (1855, 1942).

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a Russian victory; the eponymous poem make it famous and celebrated.

Could Be Worse

Sometimes the defeat is not as bad as it could be.

Dunkirk evacuation was a defeat, but it could have been a disaster instead, so there is a lot to celebrate there, not just commemorate.

Battle of Borodino was a defeat for the Russians, but they preserved the Army and managed to eventually win the war (this item also fits into the second - "bravery" - category).

Baptism of Fire

This is where the Gallipoli Campaign fits for Australia and New Zealand.

Another example is the Defender of the Fatherland Day. On February 23, 1918, the first detachments of what would eventually become the Red Army ran away from the Germans. This was first turned into "fought the first battle", and then into "won the first victory".

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