Some may call me crazy for getting up at 2am to go into Sydney for the ANZAC Dawn Service. (some may just call me crazy). Hub and Graviee didn’t want to participate. Hub has been to many services in the past as he used to work in RSL clubs. Me, I’ve only been to the ANZAC parades which happen later in the day.
So what is the history? The following is courtesy of dva.gov.au via events.nsw.gov.au.
The Anzac tradition – the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship – was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8700 who were killed or died from wounds or disease. In 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and 25 April was officially named ‘Anzac Day’ by the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce.
By the 1920s, Anzac Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. In the ensuing decades returned servicemen and women from conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers, joined the parades. Since the 1990s attendance at Anzac Day commemorations, especially by young people, has grown, with many making the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli Peninsula to attend the Dawn Service.
The Dawn Service has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today. The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers’ eyes and the half-hour or so before dawn, with its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark before dawn, so that by the time the first dull, grey light crept across the battlefield, they were alert with weapons ready. This was, and still is, known as “stand-to” and was also repeated at sunset.
As I arrived into Sydney the rain started to fall. I was lucky to squeeze into a spot under the cover of a newsstand. I got my program and sprig of rosemary which symbolizes remembrance and waited with the silent crowd for the proceedings to start.
It is a solemn occasion, not a celebration. The readings, in particular a letter from a digger to his wife, were moving. The hymns were beautifully sung by the Sydney Male Choir. The Ode and the Last Post always get to me. And yes I shed a tear during the minutes silence. For all those who fought for peace, for our country, for those who gave their lives, and those who returned forever scarred…. We will remember them.
Lest we forget.