NB: This blog is usually about poetry. But it is not such a bad place for a text of a public address. The post does contain poems. It is also set out in verse to make it easier to read aloud. I remember, with great fondness, the hospitality of the Turkish people. May they know peace.
Anzac Day Dawn Service 2017 – Cenotaph, Callaghan Park, Temora NSW
On behalf of the Temora Christian Leaders, thank you, once again,
To the Anzac Committee and their helpers.
Thank you to our Returned Service Men and Women,
who grace us with your presence,
And, thank you, to all of you who keep showing up year after year in such numbers.
At least, in the dark of the dawn,
no one can see if you tumbled into daggy dress at the last minute!
Last year, 2016, in late April and early May,
I was in Turkey with some companions.
We went to Gallipoli and made some memories, atop the memories already there.
What follows, like all memories,
Will be more from association than a systematic mini lecture.
Anyhow, there were many silent moments that day,
It is hard to know what to say in such a place.
A. The Landing
Our brave Anzacs arrived at what is now called Anzac Cove, at Dawn, 25 April 1915.
Some fell on the beach, others on the ascending escarpment.
With my companions last year, we arrived on a balmy, sunny day in peace,
But the landscape made evident what our diggers faced.
An open beach, bare of cover from enemy fire greeted them.
A steep slope, up the hillside, met them next, where,
From behind the cover of bushes,
Sheltered Turks rained fire on our troops.
We stood upon the sands and hillside where our valiant Aussies fell among their mates.
The serenity we felt was met by the eerie spectre
That the ground spoke.
As we went to the trenches,
we saw they were partially filled in by erosion.
But their network was visible still.
In the trenches, our diggers, dug, fought and fell, despaired and laughed,
Ate, slept and trembled.
They endured hot, sunny days, cold night and rains.
As we trudged in the trenches,
Some of us stopped, and leaned pensively against the pines.
Amid sunlight and shadows playing across the furrows,
We contemplated the light of bravery and the darkness of death
That moved there, all those years ago.
Z. The Museum
The building project of the museum told its own story.
At various intervals work had to stop, not just for weather or supplies.
It stopped because, as the site was excavated, human remains and artefacts of battle were unearthed.
They had to be respectfully identified, if possible, and suitably catalogued,
Before construction of the museum continued.
The museum was finely and evenly presented. One sign board gave me pause:
An Australian officer, was down, wounded, on the battlefield.
A white flag went up from the Turkish trench.
A Turkish soldier came and carried the wounded soldier over to the Australian trench.
Fighting only resumed after the kind Turk returned to his own trench.
Headstones hold precious memories
As loved ones seek them to be recorded.
At Commemoration Point (above the beach), a member of the Indian Mule Corps may rest beside our cavalry.
In this same cemetery, a headstone bore, appropriately – yet, also with a strange irony – an extract from
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Requiem poem:
“Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.”
It marked the grave of a man from the 8th Australian Light Horse.
The irony arrives when we consider that Stevenson’s poem concludes with:
“Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
That light horseman did not come home across the sea.
Nor did his horse head him home from the hill.
But, we remember him still.
At Lone Pine, where some were “believed to be in this cemetery”,
A Private Bright, of the 1st Australian Infantry, is commemorated with:
“He has changed his faded coat of brown
for one of glorious white”.
Indeed, his life may have faded,
But the bright promise of the white garment,
Of those risen in Christ, was now within his grasp.
Christ had given his life for his friends,
So too, had many, many service people.
C. It Did Not End There
Our people went to war again: WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Wars, Timor Leste and Afghanistan – just to name a few.
Our service men and women serve us still:
They assist in bushfires, floods, and cyclones.
They offer a career path of discipline and expertise to many.
- The Conflict Continues
In those who served us abroad, some still wrestle the torment within memories,
Like a molten magma, bubbling away, at times it bursts out to hurt them, and those near them.
Other conflicts continue – acts of terror and violence.
Last year I walked Turkey in peace. Civil unrest marks its days now.
7. Peace, Valour and Community Begins with Each of us
As is so often the case,
Peace, valour, and community, begin with the words and actions
Of each of us.
We commemorate our beloved and brave dead.
We stand, shoulder to shoulder, in the trenches of everyday,
To resolve our conflicts as they begin,
Before they run away from us.
The ancient Celts formed a kind of alliance, or treaty,
Between their love of nature and the Christian Faith.
A version of one of their blessings seems a way to move from here:
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the Son of peace to you.
(Multiple versions, like this one, are on youtube.)
Eternal rest grant to our fallen, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them,
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Simon C.J. Falk 25 April 2017