Being scheduled to work later in the morning meant that it was probably better for me to attend a local dawn service, rather than the big one in the city. I’ll be putting the city one down on my calendar for next year though.
I had a look around and decided to attend the Blackburn service. It commenced at 5.50am and was held at the Cenotaph on Central Road.
Getting up was strangely easy. I’m quite out of practice at early starts, which probably worked in my favour. When it’s a one off thing, it always seems that bit easier.
I really didn’t know what to expect and was unsure of a dress code, though I figured turning up in my pyjamas and nice thick bed socks was probably a bit too casual. With husband, baby and visiting dog all still sleeping, I headed out into the dawn – the chilly dawn… the very chilly dawn, with one coat on over my clothes wondering if I should have brought a second!
On arrival, I was surprised, but pleased to see a number of people walking towards the cenotaph with dogs and children in tow. Some of the children were particularly young. It was great to see young parents making the choice to instill the value of honouring our ANZACs in their children. The size of the crowd was good, given the site wasn’t very big.
Standing around the cenotaph, with the sun still yet to rise, the cold no longer seemed to matter. Our minds were focused on one thing and one thing alone – the sacrifice of those who give their lives to serve us both now and in days gone by.
It was 95 years ago that our Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), along with other allied troops landed with the objective to take the Gallipoli Peninsula. The story doesn’t end with victory, but was a demonstration of the bravery of our troops in World War I. Though ANZAC Day now commemorates the broader sacrifice of all our military men and women, the legend of the ANZACs still captures Australians every year.
The Dawn Service was not a long ceremony. After a brief speech, we heard the ode that marks ANZAC day across Australia: 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. As the bugle played the last post, the Australian flag was lowered to half mast. Lest we forget.
It was my first experience of the last post being played at dawn. There’s an eeriness to it that couldn’t help but draw my thoughts towards those who have given their lives and the freedoms I now experience. We then heard Reveille as the flag returned from half mast. Wreaths were then laid from the President of the RSL, then government members, then the public. The next part was, for me, the most special part of the dawn service. Members of the RSL were invited forward to the Cenotaph to pay their respects, then the opportunity was opened to members of the public to do the same, in family groups and groups of three or four. I was so impressed to see almost everyone in attendance take the opportunity to go forward and take a moment to pay their respects.
Being there on my own, I was a little nervous about going forward, but as a descendent of military men, the nerves were not going to stop me. I eventually had the chance to go forward along with two elderly gentlemen. I thought of my grandfather and great grandfather. I thought of those who landed at Gallipoli. I thought of those who are currently serving abroad. And I thought of those of us who go about our lives feeling safe and protected, living predominantly unaffected by war.
I am no fan of war and my desire would be that there be alternative ways for countries to resolve those issues that I can never quite understand. Fighting for peace doesn’t seem to make much sense. Nonetheless, many have given their lives and continue to make huge sacrifices so that we here in Australia and those across the world can know a life marked by freedom.
Lest we forget.