Commemorating Anzac Day 2023

It will soon be ANZAC Day (25th April), a day where we remember, show our gratitude and pay respects to service men and women of Australia and New Zealand, forged from our connections in WW1 at Gallipoli and on other battlefields.

ANZAC day has always been an important day in my life, with my dad being an ex WW2 serviceman, and as a family we observed the day every year, usually by attending the annual march in Adelaide. I remember going to the ANZAC day march through the city streets of Adelaide from a very young age, waiting for what seemed like hours, to see my dad’s group from HMAS Australia II, march by.

It was a huge group of men, proudly marching in step behind their banner, medals jingling in sync as they stepped out probably feeling every bit like their 19 year old selves who joined the navy in 1939. My dad was first deployed on HMAS Voyager which was one of a flotilla of ships that the enemy referred to as the ‘scrap iron flotilla’.

Most of his service however was on HMAS Australia (or the Aussie, as it was affectionately known by those who served on it), and after the war, he was one of the first to join the HMAS Australia club. When this veterans club was instigated in Adelaide, an idea was put out for anyone who served on the ship to join and continue the mateship and camaraderie they had formed during service and conflicts, and many did.

Each year reunions were held and an annual dinner was the culmination where a formal remembrance service was held. At the evening dinner, lights were dimmed at 9 pm and a cross in a light box was illuminated, then the names of ‘shipmates’ who had died during the war and since, were recited, their names spoken by their mates in the eerie darkness and silence. It was such a moving ceremony that it stays with me today, many years later.

The service was followed by a hearty rendition of the ship’s song, penned by one of the crew, which over time had to have lyrics adjusted to reflect more politically correct times. The original writer of the song was a main instigator behind the veterans club, and a true gentleman, he happily altered the song lyrics to enable it to be sung without causing offence to anyone.

Sadly with time, the numbers of veterans attending reunions and ANZAC day marches faded away and these days the HMAS Australia II banner is carried by current navy cadets in the ANZAC day march. I don’t attend the march in the city anymore, in fact I haven’t since my dad passed away more than 20 years ago, but observing ANZAC day at a dawn service is how I now mark the day.

In every town and corner of the country, ANZAC day dawn services and marches are held so it’s easy to be a part of the ceremonies wherever you are.

There are some terrific memorials, museums, gardens and war cemeteries around the country to see and you can read about some of them here:

Adelaide River War Cemetery in the NT

Memorial in Geraldton WA

Service Dog memorial in Goolwa SA

Farina War Memorial, SA

Wherever you are on ANZAC day, consider attending a dawn service, they are such moving ceremonies, and stick around after the formalities for a breakfast, sausage sizzle, coffee and rum if they’re on offer too. All of these traditions are important parts of the day and make great community get togethers.

While you’re at it, have a go at making ANZAC biscuits too, another great tradition of the day.



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