Anzac Day Dawn Service 2017 – #AnzacDay

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.

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Anzac Day Dawn Service 2017 – Cenotaph, Callaghan Park, Temora NSW

 

Prelude

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.

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N. Trenches

 

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.

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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:

 

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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.

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A. Headstones

 

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.

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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.

 

 

  1. 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

Preparing for the Morning Service this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

Preparing for the Morning Service this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

We are approaching another Anzac Day here in Australia. A day where we remember.  By way of remembering I was asked to go over what I said at our local gathering two years ago.  What follows is a paste of my words at the Morning Service that follows the march.

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Anzac Day Morning Service 2013

Earlier today we gathered in the dawning light and remembered our brave Anzacs.

Now, approaching the noontide of our day

We have moved on.

Like pilgrims, or like soldiers marching, we come to rest at a further spot.

After our brave Anzacs valiantly served us in what we called the ‘Great War’, we sent some   Again…. later.

In the Second World War, our people excelled once more.

The Kokoda legend began and many people still travel that track.

But the ones who originally blazed that trail

How did their boots fall upon the duckboards?

Or how did they slip in the muddy mire

As the tropical sun and pests beset them?

Did they feel something of the ancient Israelites leaving Egypt

But traveling to a new land with foes nearby.

We hear some stories, but not all.

My mother’s uncle,

A supply soldier in New Guinea, seldom spoke of his tour of duty.

War saw new developments in this conflict

As technology advanced the bombs borne by sea and air,

The guns shattering the silence, the cities and the sanctuaries.

Farming families of Europe

After centuries of sieges

On their grass and in their barns

Again saw their fields and pastures invaded by the machines of war

As they became battlegrounds for territory

resting places of the fallen,

Atolls of asylum for shot down pilots.

Mighty cities near the ocean

We’re massacred in moments of mushroom cloud.

Pens and prisoner of war camps

Housed slave labour for rail lines in tropical paddies in icy tundras.

Back home families continued on coupons,

And mothers at times had to be fathers for their children as well,

Not knowing if the fathers would even come home,

And the state they would arrive in if they did come back to their families.

The home front were consigned to waiting

Yet their anxious wait gave energy to their work

As they kept our shops open, our classrooms filled

And our farms fielded.

As the sun rises higher in the sky

And the dial moves on

More names fill our roll call…

Korea

The Vets of Vietnam

Peacekeepers of East Timor

Aussies still in Afghanistan as we gather here today.

We remember them all.

As our youngsters, and not so youngsters

Take the Kokoda track today

What happens for them?

As the ground speaks its stories to them

Do they burn with revenge

Or fan a resolution

To not repeat the history?

As thousands of tourists pace over the pebbles of Auschwitz-Birkenhau,

Do they rejoice that work today can be free?

Travelling Eurostar trains over the green fields of France

Do we hope those farms will not become forts again?

May the courage of those before us put courage into us,

May their valour teach us to vie for peace instead of conflict.

As we stand here today by our own choice may we be thankful for those who freely chose lay down their lives for others.

May we find peace in our hearts and be ourselves peacemakers

That those who cross our way may know peace,

Even in times of conflict.

And may our families still tormented by past and present war know that we stand with them sharing their sorrow and willing them hope.

At the going down of the sun

We will remember them

And we still hope

That one day there will be a dusk to the devastation

And all will be made new.

Simon C.J. Falk

Anzac Day 2013

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