Posted on: Monday, Apr 25, 2011
I remember as a very young child, standing thigh-high to my father as the sun came up to the sound of the Last Post at the Anzac Memorial in the little town of Gundagai. And I remember my children, thigh-high to me, doing the same.
What a joy this morning to get up at 4:30am and see shafts of light coming from their bedrooms. They were dressed before me and waiting. I hadn’t asked them to join me, but they were there this year, to take me to the service. Anzac Day has become part of our national memory and the Anzac spirit of sacrifice and mateship an unspoken part of our collective fabric.
This morning, it was a longer, slower walk from the car park to the ceremony, even with my cane to assist. I thought of my great-uncle Harold Heydon, who walked with his leg in a brace with a cane to assist because of a wound he received at Gallipoli. He didn’t speak of the war but remembered his war service with pride. His car registration number was HH701, a combination of his initials and his regimental number in the Second Battalion.
On arriving at the memorial pre-dawn, only the vague shapes of the many hundreds in attendance could be seen. We heard a young child say, “Mummy, it looks like a huddle of penguins.” In our immediate vicinity there were elderly people, young couples with arms around each other, people with dogs on leads, male and female cadets in uniform, a white-bearded man in a kilt and children thigh-high to their parents.
Just before everyone turned to face the east and the dawn breaking for a minute’s silence, a lone piper played the haunting lament, Flowers of the Forest. Then the Last Post followed the poignant delivery of the fourth verse of Binyon’s Ode:
“They shall grow not old, as we that 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 will remember them.
Lest we forget.”
We later went for a lovely lunch at Fitzy’s, because that freedom we enjoy is the reason they fought.