The Shrine of Remembrance was called “the cathedral of the Anzac Spirit”.
Last Thursday I attended my first Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
“The Dawn Service is a major part of the tradition of ANZAC Day and harks back to the military practice of ‘standing to’ at dawn. Each dawn and dusk, the most favourable times for attack, soldiers were called to ‘stand to’ and manned their posts in full kit, ready to repulse enemy attacks or launch their own.” Taken from http://www.vic.gov.au/event/2013/04/anzac-day-dawn-service.html.
Originally Anzac Day was a commemoration of the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. It’s a day of great patriotism amongst Australians, arguably more so than Australia Day. Nowadays, as well as commemorating that day, it is also a day of reflection for all who have given service or their lives for our countries. Whereas Australia Day in January commemorates the day the English arrived in (some say invaded) Australia, Anzac Day is all about a coming of age. It is not about celebrating the win of a battle, but about the loss of lives because the battle at Gallipoli was disastrous as far as loss goes.
This year my Mum and I were among anywhere between 45,000 and 50,000 people who turned out to the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. It was something I’d wanted to see for myself for a long time. It started with the Preamble at 5.45am. Unfortunately I don’t know who was giving the speech but he spoke about Gallipoli, sharing some of the history of the day and battle. He then moved on to share some of the experiences of some of the soldiers. I know the facts of the day but it was great to hear some of the detail you don’t often read about in the history books.
Once the service started at 6am there were a number of speakers who told different stories. As there are no more living Gallipoli soldiers some of the focus was on Afghanistan. It was great to get an insight into what is happening over there.
There was some concern about 10-20 years ago that the Service and Anzac Day itself would become less and less relevant. There are no more survivors of WW1 and the numbers of veterans from WW2 are declining. Since then the people have rallied and the numbers are increasing. Children of veterans are now marching and proudly wearing their medals, albeit on the right side of their chest. Only soldiers who have earned their own medals should wear them over their heart.
As I mentioned before there were around 50,000 people at the Shrine along with thousands at the other capital cities. Melbournians have a reputation for turning out to any sporting event but I realised that’s it not just sports that we go to.