ANZAC Day has had many ups and downs over recent years, with some in urban areas even protesting ANZAC Day as being offensive. Yet despite this, and maybe because of these ‘unfortunates’ as I would call them, ANZAC Day has had somewhat of a resurgence and is attracting more people to the dawn services, especially young people. Maybe the loud protestations by irrelevant and ill-informed individuals has piqued their curiosity and desire to learn more about what the protestations are all about and, in doing so, revealed a piece of history that was in danger of fading from the national conscience in so many ways. And by learning about it, they have come to realise how important such days really are for our nation, or any nation for that matter.
This year was my first attendance at an ANZAC Day ceremony in Mirboo North, which was slightly different to those that I’ve attended in Melbourne. Given the age and frailty of many attendees, the Mirboo North ANZAC Day ceremony isn’t a dawn service, but held a little later in the morning to make it easier for many of the attendees. That’s really not a bad thing, as I think that can encourage more attendees, especially in a farming community where things such as the milking of dairy cows has to be done early in the morning to suit the established routines of the bovine wards. So while the ANZAC Day ceremony in Mirboo North doesn’t compare in scope and numbers to that of larger towns, it’s still pretty well attended and not at all insignificant compared to my previous home back in Melbourne.
After initial introductions and prayer, there followed the wreath laying, with representatives from various organisations and schools paying their respects. It’s hard to say how the school children feel about such an event, being so far removed from what happened so very long ago, but it’s good to see them there and I doubt that any were ‘encouraged’ to participate.
Then followed various eulogies with thoughts about how the life and travails of those soldiers now long gone have directly and indirectly influenced and impacted on our lives. As Reverend Pittaway stated, it’s impossible for anyone who has not been called to war, to comprehend what it means and the effect it can have on the individual. That said, the efforts of those soldiers, sailors and airmen, including the contribution of women throughout the wars, should not be ignored or forgotten. Even though wars are increasingly being executed by means of modern technology, the human element is always there and it can never be anything but personal, and the horrors just as real. I have first-hand experience seeing the results of what can happen in today’s war zones and the technology being developed to improve the safety of soldiers’ lives but, sadly, nothing is infallible.
Once the ceremony was over, the RSL held a morning tea where I met with members of the local RSL and notably one member who was in Borneo when 30,000 Japanese troops surrendered to 30 Australian soldiers at the cessation of the war. This ex-soldier brought home the Japanese flag from that memorable day and it now resides in the Mirboo North RSL. The ceremony today wasn’t filled with morbid sorrow, but reverence and respect, and I think hope that the terrible years of especially a century ago will never be repeated.
Lest We Forget.