Thursday, April 24, 2008

Remembering Remembrance

There have been some memorable ANZAC day ceremonies in my life so I thought I'd share them, given that ANZAC day isn't very big in Glasgow. I think it is one of those days where, like Australia Day, I feel not at ease. On one hand, I'm incredibly sad that so many young men gave their lives for a stupid stupid war - senseless, wasteful, stupid. On the other, I dread the bogan element coming to the fore, flags draped and heads bowed in pseudo penitence unsuccessfully hiding blatant nationalism. I have gone to dawn services most years, although not recently because I've been overseas.

The Funniest Dawn Service:
Attending Dawn Service in Bunbury was always quite good because it was generally pretty relaxed. You could wake up at 5.45, be at the service for 6am and back in bed by 6.30. Unless there was a spontaneous street party which is what happened in 2002. After the Ode:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

came the one minute silence which in Bunbury was generally followed by the Last Post (most dawn ceremonies have a gun salute followed by the Reveille which traditionally woke the soldiers up, but Bunbury was too small for a gun salute for fear of ricochets or rednecks turning up with their own shotguns). Well, this minute silence went on forever. There was no Last Post until eventually someone hummed it through pursed lips. Bunbury's only bugler had been on a bender the night before and had slept in. None of the organisers had noticed he was missing. Somebody then started singing Waltzing Matilda and another crew took out some beers and that was it. Party in the park. The following year he slept in his uniform at a mate's house, with an alarm clock, a wake up call and a rooster.....

The smallest dawn service
Richard, Michael and I were in Manchester for Rich's bucks weekend in 2004. We had hired a convertible beetle and after driving around in London's taxi and bus zone with a blow up kangaroo in the back, we headed for Britain's birthplace of dance music (how ironic that we were driving a German car....). I knew we'd be up all night discotheque-ing on the 24th, so had arranged a surprise dawn service for my mates. As Rich's best man, I wanted to make it a weekend to remember, so I had packed a couple of ANZAC posters kindly donated by the Bunbury RSL (who were ecstatic that I was planning a DIY service) and a laminated poster of the Ode. On the way home, we stopped in a central park and much to the boys' amusement (and about 20 puzzled onlookers) we held an ANZAC service with the posters spread around us.

The hard-core dawn service
Some time in the eighties a bunch of friends who may have also been Venturer scouts decided it would be a good idea to ride from Applecross to Kings Park for the dawn service. At the age of 16, it was difficult enough getting up in normal hours, let alone stupid o'clock. And there was a strong easterly making the ride not very pleasant. And I think I ripped my scout uniform falling over when navigating the curly part of a footbridge.

The 13 step dawn service
It was a privilege to guard the memorial in Kings Park. Each Rover unit (scouts for people who don't grow up) had to nominate 4 people to do a half hour stint of marching around the memorial. Our unit always seemed to get 3am or 4am. The older we got, the more likely we were to go into Northbridge, party at a club, then rock up to do a swift clothing change that transformed us from nouveau ravers into para-military disciples. There are massive orange flood lights in each corner of the memorial and these are not pleasant to walk over because the light really does blind you. This, combined with trying to be sensible after a night on the town, in what was a sombre occasion marching around in circles for the state, does not bode well for a fun 30 minute walk. We worked out if you kept your eyes closed and counted thirteen steps, all you needed to do was turn sharply left and you wouldn't fall off.

The traffic light vigil
For some reason, we would guard the Mosman Park memorial on the corner of Stirling Highway and Leake St all night before the dawn service there. I think the idea was to have scouts milling around to stop hippy peacenik vandals. This vigil involved just 2 scouts standing next to the memorial in half hour stints holding a stave. There was a deli across the road with the time and temperature. We would watch the temperature go down throughout the night and woop each time it changed, laying bets over who would have the coldest stint. When you tired of wooping, you could lean over and push the "walk" button on the lights with your stave. We had great pleasure in pressing this button all night, causing cars to stop in the dead of night for no apparent reason. Sometimes we got yelled at....

Upon re-reading this entry, it would seem that there is my own bogan element to ANZAC day, but I prefer to think of it as a legacy of Aussie larrakin and mateship.....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The father-in-law went in the Rocko march this year. Older daughter came from Cairns, and negotiated with the RSL for them to be driven in the parade, as he's getting on a bit. I drove and we collected another ageing Digger to sit in the front. Turns out we were one of only two cars (the other was a WWII Jeep)along with the bus. I noted that the Jeep was being followed by a German car and a Japanese bus. Waves of clapping and 'good onya, Digger' followed us around the track.
And I won $25 playing two-up at the RSL afterwards.