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At Dawn on ANZAC Day

Figures moved like wraiths through the thick morning fog. Wraiths clad in hoodies and fleece jackets, streaming towards the Dawn Service commemorating ANZAC Day in Warwick, Queensland.

I held tightly to Bear’s warm hand as we joined stragglers gathered at the gates to the War Memorial, the sound of singing mingling with some particularly rowdy birds in the chilly pre-dawn.

The billowing fog, eerie light from nearby lampposts and the brooding darkness that comes just before daybreak was a moving setting for the songs and tributes that echoed out into the park. I haven’t heard “In Flander’s Fields” since I was a girl in Canada – another Commonwealth country – drawing pictures of poppies for the annual nationwide competition.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Before I came to Australia I’d never heard of the ANZACS and didn’t know what ANZAC Day was. I’ve since learned a few things.

ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

April 25th is ANZAC Day and marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by the ANZACS during the First World War at a place called Gallipoli.

To say the action was a mess would be putting it mildly. That it was not an all out catastrophe is due only to the incredible heroism and bravery of the ANZACS. It is best not to mention the British at this point. Their willingness to use the Aussies and Kiwis as cannon fodder was a habit that took decades to break, and is still deeply resented by many.

In spite of devastating losses and eventual retreat, the Gallipoli Campaign is often considered to have marked the birth of national consciousness in both Australia and New Zealand. England may have birthed them, but they would quickly stand on their own feet and develop their own unique culture, history, and accents.

The 25th of April was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916, and developed from a commemoration of the 60,000 Australians who lost their lives in WWI to include those lost in WWII and subsequent military operations.

ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance. The Dawn Service reflects the feelings of comradeship soldiers felt in the quiet, peaceful moments before dawn, before the battle began anew. Over time it has grown to commemorate the dawn landings at Gallipoli as well. Original Dawn Services were limited to veterans, but nowadays families and other supporters are welcomed.

The Dawn Service in Warwick included moments reflected in services throughout Australia: bugler playing Reveille, moments of silence, hymns, prayers, tributes and readings.

I am not Australian, but I still choked back tears as I stood in the darkness with hundreds of others. I saw women standing alone, teenage couples huddling for warmth, soldiers, scouts, and police officers, elderly women in hats and long coats, veteran soldiers in uniform. I wondered why so many would wake at 4 a.m. as we did, creeping through fog so thick you could hardly see ten feet in front of the car, shivering in the cold and darkness. I thought of my brothers fighting in Afghanistan, my grandfather guarding a POW camp in Denmark after WWII, my Danish and Norwegian relatives fighting in the Resistance, and I knew why I was there.

To remember.
To say thank you.
To renew my commitment to live peacefully and kindly and honorably.

I hate war. I hate that soldiers die, no matter what side they’re on. I hate the separation of families, lovers and friends, the devastation of cities and homes, the gutting loss of life. I hate that powerful people use the lives of soldiers and civilians as pawns in their quest for more power. I wish it would never, ever happen again.

But I am deeply grateful to those who fight and have fought on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. To those who suffer deprivation and loneliness and untold horrors just so I can be safe and do all those little things that seem so insignificant when compared to their sacrifice.

I am grateful that in remembering those who have fought, we renew our desire for peace.

“There can be no peace if there is social injustice and suppression of human rights, because external and internal peace are inseparable. Peace is not just the absence of mass destruction, but a positive internal and external condition in which people are free so that they can grow to their full potential.” – Petra Karin Kelly (1947-1992)

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Ted D. Thompson - Thanks for this post. There is a song called “The Band Played Walzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle tells the story well. John McDermott’s YouTube version of the song is one of the best.

Krista -  I’m glad you reminded me when Canadians pay their respects, Val. I remember the stories, the annual drawing competitions at school, the poppies that were handed out, but I couldn’t remember when it was. Thank you. 🙂

Krista -  I love what you wrote, Jeanne. We DO owe it to them, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to participate in this very moving day.

Krista -  It was such a special day, Neil. I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it, to hear your stories and history. I was very honored.

bellini - So well put Kristie. Here in Canada we honour our lost souls in November, but any day or time of year is a good time to remember.

Jeanne @ Cooksister! - I first found out about the ANZAC when I saw peter Weir’s OUTSTANDING film Gallipoli as a teenager.  It really is profoundly affecting and highly recommended.  Like you, I hate war but honouring war dead is not glorifying conflict:  it is remembering those (often painfully young) soldiers huddled afraid and thousands of miles from home, waiting for the command to go over the top, probably not choosing to be there but with no option to refuse.  We owe it to them not to forget their sacrifices. 

Neil1964 - A special day for Australians to remember our history and appreciate what others have given us……..  a safe country to grow old in,
 with the love of our families…….something that they no longer have………….it really is the ultimate sacrifice.

Krista -  Thank you, dear Andi. xo

Krista -  Thank you, dear Ann. xo I loved sharing ANZAC Day with you and Neil and Bear. 🙂

Krista -  I’m so glad I could share it with you, Vanessa. 🙂 I only had my phone to take pictures with, but the grainy look of the photos captured the feel of the moment so perfectly.

Krista -  Thank you, dear Cathy. These past few days I’ve learned just how important this day is to you Aussies. xo

Krista -  I remember that movie too, Breanne. I felt so sad. I love that you could picture the scene. 🙂 I know you would’ve loved to be there too.

Krista -  I’m so glad you enjoyed learning more about ANZAC Day, Melody. 🙂 I love history and learning too. 🙂

Krista -  You’re very welcome, Margo! I’m so glad you found it interesting 🙂

Andi Perullo - Beautiful, just beautiful. 

Ann Hill - OH Krista – your pics are soo eerie, I didn’t recognize them until I took a closer look. Very moving post as well. Your heartfelt sentiments are echoed by many. 

Lest We Forget

vanessa - Wow! what a great history lesson. I didn’t know anything about this day. Your photos are simply haunting. TYSM for sharing xx

Cathy Powell - Krista – this is a beautiful moving post, thank you dear friend for writing this 🙂  We will remember them.

Breanne Mosher -  I first heard about Gallipoli when I watched the movie by the same name and the images from it haunted me for weeks. I learned about ANZAC Day when we were in New Zealand but I didn’t know about the services that were held or more of the history. Thank-you for sharing, I’m glad you were able to be there. I could picture it, even feel the chilly fog and had goosebumps when I read about why you attended. You are a gifted writer.

Melody Goff - Thanks for sharing this and furthering my education, Krista. I always like to learn new things and this was very interesting!  =)

Margo Millure - didn’t know about this – thank you so much for sharing!

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