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Service Details 2015

 

Dawn - Midmorning

 

 

 

ANZAC was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914-1918).

ANZAC day, 25 April, is one of Australia's national days, and it remains a day that many Australians identify with - even as the old diggers fade away. It is the one day of the year where the whole of Australia comes together in both small and large community gatherings to take part in solemn ceremonies of remembrance, gratitude and national pride for all our men and women who have fought and died in all wars.

ANZAC Day has evolved over the years. Very few of those at home in 1916 on the first anniversary would have made much of the day. Of course there were no troops to cheer. Churchmen organised some commemorative services and to these were added, no doubt, many private, personal recollections. In London the ANZACs took over, briefly. The Australian high commission planned an elaborate celebration which included a march of Australian troops through the heart of the capital, culminating in a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the King and Queen. Newspapers encouraged Londoners to turn out in large numbers to give the Australians a heroes' welcome and asked women to bring flowers to throw at the troops. The success of the march rewarded these exhortations. So great was the crush of the crowd that the ANZACs were unable to march in formation but walked in groups, acknowledging the affection and applause.

At the Abbey, 2000 Australians gave full voice to the hymn 'For all the Saints who from their labours rest', bringing tears to the eyes of many in the congregation. There was more than a hint of 'swank' in the Australian parade, as if the ANZAC had performed so much better than other allied soldiers. The landing was an event of enormous significance in Australia, but for older nations, whose history over the years tells of wars and campaigns above all else, Gallipoli represented little more than another short and bloody adventure.

Members of Highfields RSL sub-branch, on parade at the Inaugural ANZAC day
March held at Highfields, 2005. The contingent is lead by the
sub-branch SNR Vice-President MR. Graham Hayes.

In the later war years ANZAC day was kept up by the Australians within their own units, marked usually by a church parade and a special dinner. Troops of other nations too, wanted to share the day with the Australians as W.E. Dexter, the chaplain, recorded in his diary. He had come across two Tommies (British soldiers) walking in Bapaume on ANZAC Day 1917, as drunk as could be. Dexter told the men to go home to bed: "Excuse him, sir", one of them said, "he's been keeping up ANZAC". "It seems to bid fair", Dexter predicted, "to become a universal excuse for a bust". At home the day continued to be marked by church services and school commemorations and, as War memorials began to be built even as the war continued, there were a few wreath-laying ceremonies.

Australian troops returned to no great victory parades, partly because they came back so irregularly during 1919 and 1920. Also because of the influenza pandemic of early to mid 1919 which stopped people mixing together in large numbers. ANZAC Day, then, was commemorated by units and associations privately, rather than in a major public way in the early twenties.

Slowly though, the ex-soldiers began to perceive a need for an institutionalised reunion as they inevitably began to drift apart. A tour of Australia by their best loved commander, General Birdwood, brought matters to a head and some traditions began to emerge. There was considerable rather silly argument about whether the day should be a holiday, and if so, whether it should be 'wet' or 'dry'. Would remembrance grow or be demeaned by alcohol? Eventually the wowsers won, except that the ex-diggers were freed of all restraints, and by the 1950's ANZAC Day was as lifeless as Good Friday without the prospect of the Easter holidays to make up for it. Before long a march of returned men became the focus of ANZAC Day. Usually the men were in civilian clothes, although some turned out in their old uniforms, particularly in the early days. Most wore their campaign medals and decorations. They marched not en-masse but in their AIF groupings because their first loyalty had always been to their battalion or section. They created banners to identify each unit, decorating them with their colour patches and battle honours, and these banners became a feature of the march, allowing onlookers to work out who was who. In those days and for some people still, Australian military history was folk history and everyone, even those unrelated to a battalion, knew of its exploits. You would hear people say as a battalion marched by, 'Ah! the Xth. They were mauled at Mouquet Farm - Only 430 men out of 1000 answered the roll call after 3 days fighting. But so and so won the VC and the battalion also included...'



Members of Highfields RSL sub-branch, on parade at the ANZAC day
Service held at Highfields, 2006. The contingent is lead by the
sub-branch treasurer MR. Steven Dudley.

 The point of the march, in Sydney or the bush, was to gather all the returned men together and to draw them to one central spot, a shrine or memorial, for a service of commemoration. The original ANZACs have now all passed on, but they will never be forgotten.

The celebration continues to change and evolve but it still retains a great significance for many millions of Australians of all generations and now diverse ethnic backgrounds, with Poles and other Europeans and the Vietnamese proud to march beside the diggers.

Australians will continue to remember that first ANZAC Day in dawn services and other commemorative events. Let us hope too, that they will never forget what Australians endured and achieved in France and Belgium, the Middle East, New Guinea and the Islands, Malaya, Borneo, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and the many Peacekeeping Operations. Let us hope that they will reflect on the futility and horror of war and vow each ANZAC Day that there should be no more of it.
 

Members of Highfields RSL sub-branch, on parade at the ANZAC day
Service held at Highfields, 2007. The contingent is lead by
WWII Veteran MR. Gordon Dillon who served with the Merchant Navy.

 

 

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