As it's an annual event, most of us know all about the Dawn Service and the ensuing ANZAC march that happens on the 25th of April each year. But there is much to discover by actually attending the ceremonies, particularly the one at the Shrine of Remembrance. The day goes something like this:-
The morning saw me rise exceptionally early to attend the very moving Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance in the city of Melbourne. Obviously this is a specific event but a visit to the Shrine on any day can be exceptionally rewarding.
At the completion of the service, many of the 50,000 strong crowd filed through the Shrine to lay down a poppy for the fallen, or huddled around the eternal flame, deep in thought. Others chose to have their photos taken with the current service men and women. It is always encouraging to see the number of children, teenagers and young adults swell with each passing year, indicating clearly that the sacrifices have not been forgotten.
As the city was bathed in dawn light, many, including me (I was hungry after the emotional service), headed towards the large marquees along Linlithgow Avenue where members of the armed services were serving up the Gunfire Breakfast for a mere gold coin donation. Cooking and serving up almost 50,000 plates of scrambled eggs, sausages, baked beans and toast and still maintaining a friendly smile and chatting would have been no mean feat. Well done Services! I enjoyed my breakkie along with a cup of coffee (again for simply a gold coin donation). Oh, I almost forgot the tons of ANZAC biscuits supplied free of charge.
There were several characters who threw themselves into the spirit of the day. One noticeable gentleman was a past tram conductor and he spent the day (I saw him up in Swanston Street later on) giving out pennies, part of our previously legal tender, to anyone who wanted one. Many tried to match their coin with their year of birth. I also noticed several hot air balloons hovering over the shrine and wondered what the ceremony looked like from up above.
Next, I headed up towards Flinders Street Station, admiring the sunlight-dappled sprays from the Walker Fountain, donated in 1981 by the well-known Formula 1 personality Ron Walker. Moving on past the floral clock and across to the coffee shop outside the Arts Centre for a well earned cappucino, I then settled into a good vantage point from which to watch the ANZAC parade pass by. This commenced at 9am and continued until 1pm, and was a solemn reminder of the esteem in which we hold our past and currently active members of the armed forces.
The procession saw an array of beautifully maintained vehicles, from the humble Holden to the large super streamlined elite classic vehicles, most of which carried Diggers who were no longer physically able to march. There were old style ambulances, horse drawn carts, elderly in their wheelchairs, teenagers marching with heads held high and little ones with medal laden chests stepping out in time to the music of the many marching bands taking part.
It was humbling to watch the respect, pride and dignity radiating from the those marching and the enthusiasm shown by the large crowd of onlookers who were of many different nationalities and cultures. The event may be a recurrent one, but it's forever a stark reminder of the price paid for our current way of life. If you haven't attended a Dawn Service yet, please consider it. It is well worth the early rise.
The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria's National War Memorial and was built in 1934 to commemorate Victoria's men and women who fought in WWI, but now includes all Australians who fought (and continue to do so) in all wars.
Dawn Service each year: 6am followed by Parade at 9am from Federation Square.