This morning, before the sun rose, I climbed out of my warm and cozy bed, pulled on my jeans, t-shirt, jumper and a jacket and headed off into Nabiac for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service. The service started at 6am and sunrise was officially 6.17am.
For those of you non-Aussies reading this from overseas (and I know there are at least a couple of you!), ANZAC Day commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops in World Way I, on the Gallipoli Peninsular. Men; young, fit and bronzed, went ashore at 3.30am on 25th April 1915, in what was Australia and New Zealand’s first military operation of World War I. Those men could not have even guessed at the carnage that awaited them.
98 years later, Australians continue to gather at war memorials all over the country to remember the men and women who went to war then, and who have gone since.
When I lived in Sydney, for many years I went into the city’s Martin Place Cenotaph, along with thousands of other Sydney-siders to partake in the ANZAC Day dawn ceremony. Instead of the thousands, there were perhaps about 200 people gathered this morning around our local War Memorial.
I stood next to my Dad, his medals pinned to his breast. The kids from the local primary school officiated and they did themselves proud.
On the ABC news last night, they spoke of the many small War Memorials scattered across the length and breadth of this country, some in tiny communities. There was no nationally funded program to erect these memorials, they were paid for and organised by the members of each community. They stand, often in central public places, in these small towns and hamlets as a silent recognition of the sacrifices made. In regional and rural areas, they are also a reminder of the significant impact the World Wars and other campaigns have had on small communities. Fathers, sons and brothers lost.
Our memorial lists all the men who went to war, those who made it home and those who didn’t (from The Boer Wars at the end of the 19th Century through to Vietnam). It needs to be updated with the names of those who have been to more recent war fronts.
I returned home, to the sun streaming into the kitchen and a little boy wanting some porridge. I asked him what he thought ANZAC Day was about, and he said, with a big smile on his face, “ANZAC biscuits!” I cuddled him and figured that a more detailed explanation can wait for when he is older.
Next year, when The Kid is five, I think I’ll wake him early and take him with me to the local Dawn Service.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(Ode of Remembrance, from Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’, 1914)
As for 2014, I’ll be there with you. Thanks Bec H for the reminder of what it’s all about…
Splendid Bec. We too attended a dawn service. The crowd at the Picton memorial was large, bigger than I’ve seen before. Young and old. Freezing but invigorating. It was a wonderful celebration of the freedoms won by brave men and women. A moment to honour those who suffered for us. It was also a very sad and gut wrenching moment for one family whose father was evidently missing (not sure why) and who marked that event (or perhaps another) with the laying of a wreath. We marched with others from our school – young ones growing an awareness of the frailty of the human condition. During The Last Post and The Reveille we looked west and out at a blue, blue cloudless morning sky against which were set a row of beautiful gum trees with their porcelain white trunks and olive green leaves. Parrots squawked during the time of silence. How blessed are we to live in this land Australia…? And yet the wonder and responsibility of the freedoms we enjoy was evidently lost on a number of morons who had, days before, vandalised the newly upgraded electrical system at the park – a system critical to the running of the Anzac day service. Thankfully a local business had repaired it for free in time for the service. How good is community?
Community is indeed good. Thanks Jay, you paint a beautiful picture of your Anzac Day morning. Sounds like we had the same spectacular weather up here.
A wonderful account Bec of the Anzac Service in Nabiac and in essence similar to services everywhere. It was with great pleasure I attended the service in Manly; very moving with bigger crowds than usual, possibly partly due to the perfect fantastic blue skies.
What a wonderful burst of “summer” we are enjoying at the moment……Cheers..Elaine C.
Thank you Elaine. There’s something really lovely knowing there are Australians all over the country joining you in that early morning ceremony. By the way, now you’ve mastered this commenting business you could be dangerous!