Lest We Forget

The design of the Shrine of Remembrance in Mel...
Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year on April 25th, my mother would wake us up in the early hours of the morning when it was still dark.  We’d rub our eyes wearily, and reluctantly get out of our warm beds.  We’d rug up in our jackets, hats and gloves in preparation for attending the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.  Grandad would come around in his finest suit displaying his war medals proudly.  We were never ready in time for him, always running late still grabbing bits and pieces as we were shuffled out the door and into the cold morning air.

Once we managed to find a park (it was a struggle every year) and walk the rest of the way to the war memorial, it always surprised me how quiet it was considering how many people turned out.  Every one with their own reasons for being there, and their own family members to remember.  The service is hauntingly beautiful, and the stories told always made me tear up.  Hyms were sung, and The Last Post played on the bugle filling the cold morning air as the sky slowly brightened up and the sun rose.  I always got a fright when the gunfire went off, even though I knew it was coming.

Poppies, a symbol of remembrance
Poppies, a symbol of remembrance. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Once the service was over we would lay our ANZAC poppies at the war memorial next to the names of our family members who were lost in the war.  Grandad would then treat us all to McDonald’s for breakfast, which was right across the road.  I’ll admit that when I was younger, this was usually the reason I would get up so early, as McDonald’s was a huge treat for us!  But now the service means so much more to me.

One year my Grandad spoke to me about his experiences in the war and how he came to receive his medals.  Being a selfish teenager at the time, I was more interested in chatting to my friends online and thinking about what I should spend my next allowance on, so was only partly paying attention to him.  Now that he is no longer with us, of course I wish I could remember what he said to me so I can keep his legacy alive.  Hopefully Mum has some information she can share with me instead.

My Grandfather passed away in September 2010 and I have since decided that I am going to take up the tradition and attend ANZAC Day Services again.  I didn’t make it last year (due to the instability in Christchurch after the February earthquake) so today was the first time in probably nine years that I have gone to a Dawn Service.

It was cold, pouring with rain and so dark, but my partner and I braved the elements and walked to the Shrine of Remembrance here in Melbourne.   The place was packed and umbrellas were aplenty.  The service was slightly different to the ones I remember from home, but the message was the same, The Last Post played, and the gunfire still gave me a fright!

I thought of my Grandad this morning, and pictured him as he was all those years ago when I last attended the service with him.  Smart suit, hair carefully brushed to the side, and his shining medals for all to see.  I felt sad when The Last Post played, as it was also played at his funeral.  But I also felt sad for the soldiers who lost their lives in the wars.  They never got to return home, never got to see their families grow, and never got to tell their grandchildren how they earned their medals.

They will not grow old, as we who are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them – Ode of Remembrance

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