On a cold Saturday morning I stood huddled with a small group in the courtyard of Ursula Hall. My mates and I were looking miserable, disappointed that the weather was not kinder in light of this special occasion. We walked to the Australian War Memorial and around us were thousands of Canberrans all bundled up in warm jackets or shiny military uniforms, ready to pay their respects at the Dawn Service. Not all Canberrans however were dressed as warmly, as the lights and music of Mooseheads resonated down the streets of Civic at the ungodly hour.
The War Memorial was packed with people when we got there. It was later estimated that some 125, 000 people attended the Dawn Service that morning. I couldn’t see further than 10 metres in front of me. The large screen on the memorial grounds was of great help to me in spectating the event. As the time for the Dawn Service drew closer, prominent members of both the RSL and the Australian Defence Force recounted the experiences of Australia’s servicemen and women during the war. The myriad of experiences from nurses, gunners, sailors and families, effectively highlighted the diversity of the ANZAC experience. Moreover there was an emphasis on the struggles that soldiers faced when they came home, which does justice to encapsulate the entire experience of war, and not just limiting that experience to the battlefield.
The Dawn Service was simple and solemn. A catafalque party guarded the ANZAC memorial stone, as hymns were sung and prayers were said. The most striking aspect of the service was the unity of the Australian people in gathering to remember our fallen servicemen and women, and a speech made by the Chief of Army, Lt General David Morrison. “If war is a sin against humanity, then war itself is punishment for that sin.” I don’t think I have ever heard truer statement that sums up the nature of war. The solemn tunes of Reveille and The Last Post echoed throughout the memorial grounds and served as a reminder of the horrors of war, and the sacrifices which are integral to its execution.
Lest We Forget