Today, April 25th, is celebrated as ANZAC Day is Australia and New Zealand.
ANZAC Day is a day for us all to remember the sacrifices of those men and women who have served the country in times of war. Many of these brave people made the ultimate sacrifice. I have personally visited war cemeteries in France and Papua New Guinea, and despaired at the rows and rows of headstones, each marking the life of a young person, tragically cut short.
Across Australia, ANZAC Day is marked by dawn services; larger ones held in capital cities (Melbourne’s attracted 30,000 people), and smaller ones held in suburban and country towns. My twelve year old son and I attended the service at the East Keilor Returned Services League. Around 1,000 people gathered in the darkness around a small war memorial, and paid our respects in a short but moving ceremony.
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
A bugler played The Last Post, which rang out mournfully in the chill morning air. A minute’s silence was then observed, followed by the stirring Reveille and finally the national anthem. The crowd included people of all ages, from babies and young children through to WWII veterans and their widows. It is moving to think that so many people are interested enough to pay their respects in this small way.
Following the service the crowd is invited into the RSL Club for breakfast. The servicemen partake in a traditional tot or two of rum. Later they will partake in the Australian past-time of ‘two up’ and perhaps head into Melbourne to participate in or watch the annual ANZAC Day march.
Another ANZAC Day tradition is the annual Essendon v Collingwood game of AFL football, which is held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of a capacity crowd of around 92,000. The day is marked by various tributes to the armed services, including a motorcade around the ground of veterans from all of Australia’s past and present military campaigns. A full memorial service is conducted before the game, and it is moving and inspirational to be present in a completely silent crowd of 92,000.
My family and I will all be heading into the game to cheer on the mighty Bombers. But win, lose or draw, we will all be heading safely home, which is more than many of our war heroes were ever able to do.
Lest we forget.