ANZAC Day services in London began at dawn with the threat of rain failing to stop the thousands that converged on the Australian War Memorial in Hyde Park.
They came from all walks of life and age groups, to stand untied facing the curved shape monument, listening to prayers, poems and the haunting sound of the bugle rippling through the air. Australians and New Zealanders stood as one to remember our fallen heroes. Even London’s traffic was halted as the two minutes of silence began, which was precluded by the Anzac ode and the last post.
Mr. John Dauth, the High Commissioner of Australia, spoke of the bond our two nations share as he described recent winners of Victorian Cross medals, Australian trooper Mark Donaldson and New Zealand soldier Willy Apiata. He said that they were “peas from the same pod that reflects a tradition between us, of heroism and mateship which was forged so heroically 94 years ago”. The masses then dispersed for the march down Whitehall to the Cenotaph at 11 AM.
Anzac Day has become increasingly linked with national pride, a pride which is seemingly enhanced while so far away from home. Queenslanders Scott and Troy conveyed this perspective as they lined the street waiting for the Veterans to march past. “This day we remember those who lost their lives but also celebrate the spirit that their sacrifice has created, said Scott. “Being abroad I suppose you feel this sprit somewhat more than when you’re at home”, added Troy who was sipping on rum and milk, the iconic Anzac drink.
After wreaths were laid at the foot of the cenotaph by current and past service men and women, those that had gathered then made the short walk to fill Westminster Abby, for the midday service. Reverend Dr Murray D Earl, who presided over the service, spoke of the Anzac legacy, a legacy that was born at Gallipoli and has endured for almost a century through two world wars and numerous piece campaigns. The Australian and New Zealand anthems were once again sung proudly by those in attendance and just as they had done at dawn, students from Canberra Grammar School read prayers in the moving service.
Outside, an Australian digger who thought it was best to remain nameless, was kind enough to offer us some words which represents the perspective of those serving in our defence force. “For me and for my young troops this is a very special day, so many have lost their lives and we are immensely proud to be able to celebrate their memory”, he said.
The memorial services were part of thousands held right across the breadth of Australia and throughout the world, including at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. One of the more touching services was held at Kinglake, a town decimated by the Victorian Bush fires in February. More than 100 people stood around a white cross on the site of a church which burned down in the firestorm. The Kinglake people know plenty about loss and sacrifice, having said goodbye to many of their townsfolk who perished on Black Saturday.
Back in London the day concluded for many with a few beers, raised to our brave troops currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to the 102 000 thousand Australians that have paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving their county. It is a testament to the Anzac spirit that the tradition which began in 1916, of remembering our fallen heroes still continues today, and is now entrenched in young Australians who will carry it forward until the next generation understands the sacrifices of the past.
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