Having been a witness to many Dawn Services over the years you seem to forget the old ‘way back when’ ceremonies before the Australian gov’t and the DVA created the security circus that we have today. It was reported that back in 1974 there were only 3 people at the Ari Burnu Dawn Service……. How things have changed. I remember attending a Dawn Service back in the early 90’s, myself and a busload, straight from a bar in Eceabat out to the service. We even managed to secure VIP access, god knows how! The dau and all the services were so informal that at the New Zealand commemoration service the Ambassador had forgotten the cassette with the NZ anthem on it. I convinced all the Kiwis with me to launch into ‘God of Nations’ it was a stirring rendition along with the NZDF soldier doing the Haka to the Ambassador.
I sharn’t go into the Dawn Services of recent years too much. With their DVA volunteers, airport type security, long walks, delays and hold ups. Those that have experienced them know what I mean.
In June this year a friend of mine who also just happens to be my Brother In-law asked if I would assist him in a program that his company had been asked to provide. There were a group of boys and a couple of teachers who would be visiting Turkey and planned to have their own Dawn Service. Now this is June and not your normal frosty April morning.
As arranged the van with driver, guide, three chaperones and nine teenage boys, fresh out of Camberwell Melbourne. The plan was to travel to the battlefield, take an afternoon tour of it, take in a few little hidden gems. The afternoon went well, lunch, tour, teachers getting stressed, usual for school group. At Lone Pine the guys interacted with a similar boys school from Wellington NZ. This did cause a few of them to get a bit rowdy but Mick the Admin Officer sorted them out. I took them the usual route and of course to my favourite Baby 700 and JP Lalor’s headstone. All in all a very successful day in the field.
We headed across to Canakkale and as we sailed the Narrows I told them about the Naval Campaign of March 18 and the lead up to what is Anzac Day.
0330 on the 30th of June……..
I was staying in Eceabat at my favourite in-town accommodation the Crowded House Hotel. After a few hours sleep I met the bus and guys in the ferry port and we headed out in darkness once again to the ANZAC Ceremonial Area. The boys of course having trudged like zombies onto the bus had now trudged zombie like onto the grass to continue their slumber. Gonca, our wonderful local guide, ever eager to learn more helped as we arranged wreath, candles and ceremony before the big event. I went through what I thought would be the best program of events. We had managed to be prepared way too early so we stood and chatted for a while until rays of light slowly illuminated the eastern sky.
The Dawn Service…..
I opened up proceedings with a few tales of what our diggers had experienced at roughly the same time in April a hundred years before. Mick the head teacher then commemorated the Camberwell Old Boys that enlisted, served, paid the ultimate sacrifice or returned home in peacetime. Two of the boys, the youngest and the oldest had been pressed into service to lay the wreath and was done to Eric Bogle’s ‘Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ We all paused until Eric was done. We then played the Last Post with two minutes silence. One of the boys spoke the oath and then we all joined in with the Aussie national anthem. By this time the sun’s rays were putting on a glorious show behind us. The service over we all hugged, dried our eyes and headed to the van, with Eric Bogle’s ‘No Mans Land’ assisting.
The whole thing, the glorious sunrise, the distinct lack of thousands of flag-clad pilgrims, DVA volunteers, Jandarma and stands took me back to those earlier days, those simpler days, where it was all a bit hit-and-miss but always came together. After being a veteran of so many Dawn Services, this one brought it back home to me as I choked on my words and struggled to keep a dry eye. It was like being back at Ari Burnu on those chilly April mornings gathering with people who had travelled long and independently to pay their respects. No ballots, no queues, just our hands in our pockets and our hearts on our sleeves……….
Thanks to the Camberwell Boy’s Grammar group for what was a deep and meaningful experience.
Roachie – The Gallipoli Artist