IN the years since Newcastle’s Anzac Day dawn service was moved from Civic Park to Camp Shortland at Nobbys, an appreciative public has come to embrace the ritual in numbers that now measure in the tens of thousands.
Tuesday’s service was no exception, and the early morning walk to the Nobbys foreshoreeach April 25 has become a heartfelt journeyfor many, and a perfect way to observe a commemorative service that had its origins on another beach, in another hemisphere, in another century.
Of course Nobbys was not the only place where Hunter residents assembledfor the Anzac Day dawn. Hundreds were at Maitland Park, where RAAF Flight Lieutenant Andrew Harris summed up the contradiction that lies at the heart of our contemplation of war, when he described it as a “manifestation of the worst kind of mankind”. But as Flight Lieutenant Harris went on to say, there are times when a people must stand firm and “take up arms against those who aim to take away our way of life”.
Unfortunately for the combatants involved, even so-called “just wars” have their costs. The National Archives record that almost 60,000 Australians were killed in WWI. More than 27,000 died in WWII. The losseshave been orders of magnitudesmaller in the conflicts since, but the horrors of battle are as awful for modern soldiers as they were in the days of Gallipoli or Villers-Bretonneux.
As Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Bishop, recounted in her address to the dawn service at Gallipoli, the Anzacs endured “unspeakable conditions” during the eight months of that ill-fated campaign. Their resilience, their refusal to give in, created thelegend that is still very much at the heart of what many people would say itmeans to be an Australian.
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, had a similar message during his visit this week to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq when he said: “We are fighting with the same allies we fought with 100 years ago, but in a different fight.”
The service personnel Mr Turnbull addressed will know what he meant when he said the fight against terrorism requiredthe same courage, spirit and determination that earlier generations of Australians took into theirbattles.
Because for those serving on the front line, every day is Anzac Day.