My husband was a Signalman in the Australian Army for 22 years. He served as a Peacekeeper with the United Nations in East Timor but thankfully he never came under direct fire. He was lucky. My mother tells the story of how her father was unhappy because he was too young to serve in the First World War and too old for the second. With the benefit of hindsight, we know now he was lucky. This morning I talked with an elderly gentleman who was called up for National Service when he was just a lad. After training in Sydney and at Puckapunyal, his unit was ready to go to Vietnam but at the last minute their call to service was cancelled. He was one of the lucky ones too.
Today, in towns and cities across Australia and New Zealand, at Gallipoli and in France, we remembered those who weren’t so lucky as we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in Turkey. The landing on 25 April, 1915 was the beginning of eight months of battle between the Allied Forces and Turkey. More than 44 000 allied soldiers and 80 000 Turks died. Those who attended the first ANZAC Day service in 1916 thought this was the Great War, the war to end all wars. Sadly, they were wrong and now, every ANZAC Day we remember not only those first brave Australian and New Zealand soldiers but all who have served to defend our country. Freedom is not free.
We will remember them.
On November 1, 1914 a flotilla of ships sailed out of King George Sound bound for the other side of the world. Little did the excited young men aboard know that, for many of them, these final views of Albany would be the last of Australia they would ever see. They were volunteers in the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and they were destined to become the first ANZACS. A memorial on Mt Clarence overlooks the harbour from which these young men departed.
Apex Drive winds up from the harbour through the Avenue of Honour. Huge old gum trees, each with a plaque in memory of a soldier who never returned, line both sides of the road.
From the car park a flight of steps leads to the summit of Mt Clarence. Along the way are story boards featuring quotes by soldiers who recorded their thoughts as they entered the conflict.
The memorial is dedicated to the Desert Mounted Corps, including the famous Light Horse Brigades, who served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. As well as Australians and New Zealanders, the Corps was made up of British, Indian and French mounted units. The bronze statue on top of a granite plinth depicts an Australian soldier helping his New Zealand comrade whose horse has been injured.
The lookout near the memorial bears the name of the Reverend Arthur White, who led the first ever Anzac Day Dawn Service in Albany in 1930.
It’s now 100 years since those eager young soldiers left Albany but their memory lives on at Mt Clarence and around Australia in the tradition of the Dawn Service each 25 April.