At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.

Lest We Forget.

The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today. The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers’ eyes and from the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favored times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons. This was, and still is, known as “Stand-to”. It was also repeated at sunset. After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s; the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were restricted to veterans only. The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers, the dawn service was for old soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond. Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes of silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the “Last Post” and then concluded the service with “Reveille”. In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers. (from Wikipedia)

The sound of the bugle playing the Last Post at an Anzac Day Dawn Service is one of the most plaintive things I’ve ever heard, only a lone piper playing The Flowers O’ The Forest can match it. Perhaps for both it is because the music honours no victory, only the sacrifice made by those who serve, especially those who never come home again.

As regular readers know, I’m not religious. I nonetheless offer up my inchoate yearnings for the safety and peace of mind of all the military personnel, and the civilians, currently surrounded by hostilities around the world. May the politicking which has caused their situation be resolved by other means, for all our sakes.

Categories: history, Life

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4 replies

  1. It’s Canadian, and so therefore about November 11th rather than Anzac Day, but I’d recommend you give a listen to Garnet Rogers ”11:11″.
    It’s not “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, but I find it touching.

  2. Some Americans bray like bee-stung jackasses when any ally fails to toe the US line to the inch — the Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Canadians, Germans or French. Especially the French.
    Ignore them. Most of us remember who our friends are. I admit that I wouldn’t have known it was ANZAC Day if you hadn’t mentioned it, but since you did, it’s given me food for thought and cause for gratitude.
    Besides, these days you never know when Americans in exile will be appealing to our old friends to help us liberate our own country. I’m brushing up on my schoolboy French and boning up on key points in the lifelong Lafayette-Washington friendship, just in case.

  3. Lovely post tig.

    The solemn simplicity of the Dawn service repudiates those that hijack Anzac day for other agendas. We went to the Martin Place Dawn service a few years ago and it was incredibly moving.

  4. Amen from this atheist too.

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