MY 1950s childhood home in the small western Queensland town of Dirranbandi was situated directly across from the local war memorial.
This gave me an early and inescapable introduction to the rituals of Anzac Day remembrance. Each 25th April I would be woken by the crunch of marching feet on gravel. Muffled prayers and hymns would filter through the darkness. Then, the piercing but shaky notes of the Last Post, played by the town’s once-a-year bugler, would echo across the dawn. Later the townsfolk would transform to their various citizen roles for the march. I felt so virtuous being part of it all in the white dress, veil and red cape of the Junior Red Cross. Each year the local RSL would sponsor a school Anzac commemoration essay competition. In my final year of primary school I was the proud winner – an early hint of my career direction?
I realise now that the horrors of the the Second World War would have been very fresh in the memories of the adults who took part in those remembrance ceremonies, being less than 10 years since the cessation of hostilities. While only those who experienced war first-hand understand the reality I saw the distressing effect post traumatic stress had on two close family members who took part in bombing raids over Germany. I had been concerned at what I saw as increasing jingoism in the remembrance of Anzac – a far cry from the simplicity of the Anzac I recalled – an issue commented on by a number of columnists in the lead-up to 25th April. One, Christopher Bantrick, suggested Anzac Day was “now the country’s annual nationalistic fix”. He urged us to “rethink the heroic war message and disarm Anzac Day” and believes one way way to achieve this would be to expose children to anti-war poetry. Read the article here.
This year, for the first time in many years, I attended a dawn service, at Toowong Memorial Park. I’m happy to say that the significant crowd of young and old who gathered in the cool dawn air truly honoured the sacrifice and memory of our war dead and wounded. No jingoism there…