Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anzac tradition

Diorama of boats landing

A couple of days befoe Anzac Day Mum said "Daddy's going to be at school today."

My chest puffed out with pride when I saw Dad with the other men from the RSL on the school verandah waiting to address the morning parade. He looked big in his blue suit and his chest looked very broad with his medals stung across it.

One of the men gave a speech, usually a long and boring one, about the dawn landing at Gallipoli and the war.  This excerpt is from scribbled notes of an Anzac speech Dad gave at the school.

"The ships came in close under the cover of darkness and at 2:30am on April 25 the day Australian's and New Zealanders have remembered ever since, most of the men disembarked into barges and set off for the shore.  The moon had been bright and now was low, so that the hill at Gallipoli was silhouetted on the skyline. The night was cold and the sea was smooth as glass. The boats made their way to the shore and on April 25 the Anzacs made their landing. For two of the youngest countries this was the day they were to take their place as adults among nations."

"There were many heroes in that battle and many names are still remembered for their leadership and courage. While we remember many individuals, it is not that but the spirit and zeal of the men who gave their best for their country, gave their all. And the war cemeteries are a reminder of them. But Anzac means so much because they all did what they could for the cause of freedom"

He goes on to say

"As you all know the great war to end all wars did not do that for in 1939 to 1945 we had what is called the second world war.  A lot of you children would know men who took part in that war, either in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force because many of your fathers left these shores to do as the original Anzacs. And let me assure you they upheld the tradition of Anzac and are still doing so today in Vietnam even as they did in the Korean War."

Dad didn't usually do the big speech. He gave his own little talk at the end before playing the Last Post and Reveille on his cornet.

"It is customary at any Anzac Day service, or at the funeral of any one accorded a military funeral that we sound the Last Post which is a bugle call signifying that the soldier has received his last posting of death. After the call we will maintain one minutes silence in honour of our fellow comrades. Let's each give thought for that period to what those men have done and won for us. After the minute's silence we sound the Reveille which is a call that is sounded at the start of the day. This signifies that we should each be up and doing our part towards making this country a better place to live."

Then he lifted his silver cornet to his lips and played the crisp clear notes of the Last Post's haunting melody.  He blew it like a bugle, not pressing any of the keys.  As the last long note faded away, there was silence across the parade ground. Our heads were bowed, looking down at our dusty school shoes. A minute was an awfully long time not to fidget and to resist the impulse to draw pictures in the dirt at my feet.

The silence was broken with Reveille -- get-outa bed, get-outa-bed. That's what Dad reckoned the tune said. According to him, the wheels of the trains he caught during the war talked too -- goin-home, goin-home they said on the train from Sydney to Brisbane. Honey-moon-ish, honey-moon-ish they said on the way to their honeymoon at the beach.

4 comments:

  1. This is just terrific. You have this all written down in an exercise book somewhere? What a treasure!

    I do like the scuffling of the shoe bit. That was always the temptation, wasn't it. To betray one's lack of concentration on the topic at hand, by doodling ...

    Great stuff, Joan.

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  2. Thank you for sharing that special day from your perspective. We all went back to being schoolkids with you I'm sure.

    Your Dad's heartfelt speech is timeless and precious. It honours each and every serviceman and woman.

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  3. Just great!
    So many memories.
    Have you ever posted a photo of your Dad?
    He sounds like a pretty interesting fella.

    (I loved the train saying honeymoonish, honeymoonish)

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  4. Julie, I was surprised and delighted to find this speech in one of Dad's notebooks. There was an awful lot of stuff in my parents home. When I was clearing it I tried to identify and collect "history". I was taking a break from work 12 years ago and spent the time pulling it together somewhat coherently. I have Dad's diaries which run from the day he joined the war to when he was demobbed -- there are a few brief glimpses of those in today's post.

    Susan, so glad it is taking you back to school. I thought the posts might be interesting from that perspective.

    Letty, no I have not posted photos. I'd have to dig around and find them. They were in the library where there is still a lot of stuff disorganised and split on the floor from having the painter in and the burglars subsequently kicking over the piles.

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