At 4.15am this morning, in the freezing cold, with the dark of the night still surrounding my world, I stood with my eldest son our heads lowered listening to the lone bugle play.
April 25th is the day when Australians and New Zealanders remember the contribution, suffering and sacrifice of those who have served our nation in war, conflict and peacekeeping operations. It is a time to honour those who have died at war and those who currently serve to protect our country.
Australia had only been a federal commonwealth for 13 years when war broke out in 1914. Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces as part of the allied expedition to capture the Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey in 1915.
The combined forces met a powerful resistance when they landed on the slim shoreline of the rocky cliffs of Gallipoli. The campaign dragged on as stalemate for eight months with both sides suffering heavy casualties and enduring great hardships. The only success being the eventual evacuation of the allied forces in late 1915.
The soldiers of Gallipoli quickly became known as ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Corps) and the pride in that name still endures today. The legend of the ANZAC spirit with qualities such as courage, ingenuity, endurance, mateship, good humour and larrikinism has shaped the way both nations view their past and their future. They are qualities that each Australian and New Zealander hold true and endeavour to live by.
Every street in the country was touched by the effects of war with 8,000 Australian soldiers killed at Gallipoli and a total at the end of World War 1 of 60,000 killed and 156,000 wounded or taken prisoner. For such a young country, with less than 5 million people, Australia had made a significant sacrifice and paid a great loss.
The Dawn Service is the most common form of Anzac Day remembrance with symbolic links back to that dawn landing at Gallipoli. The pattern is familiar across the country with Australian’s gathering before the dawn, with a sprig of rosemary or red poppy upon their lapel, to listen to address of remembrance, sing hymns, offer prayers, lay wreaths and listen to the Last Post and Reveille played by the lone bugler. There is a minute of silence and both New Zealand and Australian national anthems are sung.
As I looked at the young man, my son, beside me and then at the other teenagers in attendance, heads bowed in respect, I knew that the Anzac spirit of my great-grandfather and his comrades forged upon those foreign shores in Egypt live within these children. It was the Anzac’s sacrifice which built the keystones of our nations freedom and identity and with the youth embracing an event that happened nearly 100 years ago it shows we will indeed, always remember them.