April 27 - May 3, 2014: Issue 160
ANZAC Day 2014 - Dawn Service and Commemorative Service at Avalon
1.30 am April 25, 2014 – bright flash of lightning crashes bright gold under closed eyelid and close clap booming of thunder – every year there is some moment from Nature, jolting, waking, reminding of this time so many years ago. In past years it has been the loud dull thud of waves against the shore sounding alike far off and close by cannons, another year a ring of sun prismed off the western foreshores at dusk and sudden silence like a metallic glinting from the land – every year something – and always from the time they were heading to shore – that lingers until midnight and beyond.
This year it is 99 years and at this time, early am, the men who were to become known as our ANZACs were moving through the water – landing and getting ready to land. And around the house, in the sleep muted suburb, you can sense there are others wide awake too this morning – out there, around, rising too to get ready for the Dawn Services. Awake – wide awake, we are all wide wide awake, and moving quietly through the darkness.
This year’s Dawn Service at Avalon was honoured by just over two thousand people. Although it teemed just after the 1.30 am flash of light and thunderclap, there was no rain during the Service.
Commodore Graham Sloper, President of Avalon Beach R.S.L. Sub-Branch, conducted the Service this year. After the Catafalque Party and Honour guard took their stations around Avalon’s Cenotaph, Mr. Sloper read a message from our Prime Minister:
Today Australians at home and abroad pause to remember all who have served our country.
This is the 99th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.
Over coming years, Australians will commemorate the centenary of the Great War and remember the tide of events that shaped our nation and that still cast a shadow over the wider world.
The First World War impacted on Australia like nothing else before or since. It was the crucible that forged our nation.
From a population of just under five million; 417,000 enlisted; 332,000 served overseas; 152,000 were wounded and 61,000 never came home.
Of men aged 18 to 42, almost one in two served in uniform.
Of those who served overseas, almost one in five were killed in action.
Of the 270,000 who returned, more than half had been wounded — and others had mental scars that never healed.
We will never glorify war. Still, the worst of times can bring out the best in us.
This day we remember all who have served our country - in our Army, Navy and Air Force — and through all conflicts: the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere our Armed Forces are sent in our name.
The presence of Australians at Anzac Day events today is a demonstration that we are a nation of memory, not just of memorials.
The character of our service men and women has helped to define our nation. Their courage, mateship and sacrifice has been exemplary.
Lest we forget.
THE HON TONY ABBOTT MP
Prime Minister of Australia
The ANZAC Day March at 11am was led by those who have served and those who are still serving. The Commemorative Service itself was attended by close to 7,500 men, women and children.
Commodore Graham Sloper (RAN Rtd.), President of Avalon Beach R.S.L. Sub-Branch, coordinated the 11am Commemorative Service. After reading the Prime Ministers once more Commodore Sloper addressed the crowd gathered in Dunbar Park:
Welcome to everybody but particularly to the younger members of the community; the schools, the sporting groups and Cadets. It is great to have you all here today and reinforces reports that Avalon now has the largest ANZAC Day March and Service in NSW outside the CBD. It also reinforces the sub-Branch's commitment to engage with the community, especially youth.
While the Orders of Service and the Flyers on this years' Tattoo are being distributed, I have a few very short announcements.
Today we should specifically acknowledge and thank Australian Defence Force personnel for their service in Afghanistan. Australia's longest war has now ended, not with victory, nor with defeat, but with hope for an Afghanistan that is better for our presence. Some 20,000 Australian men and women served in Afghanistan. 40 died. 260 were wounded and many more carry mental scars. We salute their service, we mourn their losses and we honour their achievement. We pay tribute to their families and dedicate ourselves to their continuing welfare.
Currently there are approximately 2,061 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed overseas and within Australia to protect Australia and its National interests. We also acknowledge and honour them today.
Hopefully we are the first local gathering to acknowledge The Hon. Rob Stokes State on his appointment to State Cabinet as Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage and Assistant Minister for Planning.
As next year, 2015, is the Centenary of ANZAC, there will be an additional commemoration.
On the Sunday preceding ANZAC Day, Sunday 19th April, there will be a total community March and Service for the Federal Electorates of Mackellar and Warringah, in cooperation with the State electorates of Davidson, Manly, Pittwater and Wakehurst; the Manly, Mosman, Pittwater and Warringah Councils and the Northern Beaches RSL District Council. Every school, community group, sporting organisation, community services and emergency service organisation have been invited to join veterans and their families for an 11.00 am march from Boondah Park at Warriewood along Pittwater Road to Pittwater Rugby Park for the Commemoration Service. More than 5,000 are anticipated for the march and over 20,000 for the Service which will include massed school bands and choirs. If, by chance, you are in an organisation that has not received an invitation, please contact me.
ANZAC Day will also be commemorated as usual at Avalon on the following Saturday 25th April.
As you can see on the flyer for this year's Tattoo on Saturday 14th June, The Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO will be taking the salutes for the last time. Thanks to sponsorship, the day will conclude with a fireworks display.
The Tattoo next year will be the Avalon ANZAC Centenary Tattoo on Saturday 13th June. A proposal has been enthusiastically received to have a display/tent commemorating the theatres of war in which Australia has been involved with a suggestion that this could be a collaborative project with schools.
The Commemorative Address was given this year by the Hon. Rob Stokes, Member for Pittwater:
Returned Servicemen and Women, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Today is Australia’s most important day. Today is Australia’s sacred day. Today is not a day when we celebrate a victory but rather, we remember Sacrifice. We remember Service.
It’s a day of grief as we recall the losses sustained over so many generations, and still felt today, of the more than one hundred Australian men and women who have given their lives in Service of their communities and their country.
We remember the losses sustained by those who returned home, but with injuries to mind, body or spirit.
We remember the loss to those that were deprived of a parent’s love and care and support or to those bereaved of a loved one or of those who are forced to spend their lives in care of those who have given so much for their nation.
But today is also a day of gratitude – it’s an occasion for us as a community to give thanks to those who returned. It’s a day for us to thank everyone of our Returned Servicemen and women for the privations they endured, for the sacrifices they made and the Service they gave to sustain the freedoms that we so often take for granted
There are so many Returned Servicemen and Women here with us today – I just want to reflect on one.
And that is Mr Norman Poppleton who has given tremendous Service and is now 92 years of age. Who gave tremendous Service in Europe in World War Two as a member of bomber command with the Royal Australian Air Force and who then went on to Serve in occupied Germany as a member of Tiger Force.
Who then returned home, and together with his wife Norma, contributed to the building of this nation with six children, eighteen grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, many of whom are here today.
Ladies and gentlemen – here is Norm in front of us today.
(Mr Poppleton stands and is greeted by loud and lasting applause and cheers – after turning to all sides of the corwd, arms outstretched, he calls out:
“I did it for you all!”
Some in the crowd call back – ‘thank you very much’
Hon. Rob Stokes resumes:
Ladies and gentlemen, today we celebrate those who returned. We also remember many who did not, many whose names stand engraved on the war memorials of stone that stand silently in our communities from Narrabeen to Mona Vale, at Newport, Palm Beach and right here in front of us at Avalon.
Just one name inscribed on the stone here at Avalon is of Captain Cohen, who served in France and Belgium during World War One, and is one of 6000 Australians who died around the Menin Gate, who died around Ypers in the fierce battles that were fought there in the middle years of the First World War. His name is also inscribed on the Menin Gate itself – together with those other six thousand who are known unto God, who have no tangible place of rest where loved ones can leave a token of their love and of their respect.
Aside from these personal testimonies; in our district there are many reminders of this community’s place in war and the effect it has had on us in tangible ways just in the heritage that surrounds us.
An example is the tank traps that can be seen in the mud flats just off Bayview. There is the anti-tank ditch that was dug across the neck of Bungan Beach up near where the Eleven Mile Store – placed there to protect the people of Mona Vale and further south from Japanese invasion – sadly, it seems, we who were north of Bungan Beach were to be sacrificed.
We should also acknowledge the volunteers who have restored the battery at West Head that was there and remains there as a reminder of the defence of the Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River.
Or the remains of the camp where 11 men trained as part of Operation Jaywick at Refuge Bay and scored such success in a daring attack on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour. The boat on which they travelled was itself a feature of Pittwater for many may years as the flagship of what is now Marine Rescue - Broken Bay Division.
An even more shocking reminder of just how close war came to our shores here in Pittwater is the watery grave of the midget submarine launched from I24 that was scuttled in reasonably shallow waters off Newport Beach.
Or the engravings of names and engravings of ship names left by German Merchant Seamen in the few short months before the outbreak of war in 1939 when they wer camping at Deep Creek Reserve at Narrabeen.
There are so many tangible reminders all around us. Our nation has been forged by our experience in war – so how are we ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls to respond as a community?
It is up to all of us to live our lives remembering our inheritance, remembering the service and the sacrifice that has built and sustained the freedoms on which our lives are built. It is up to us to maintain and sustain that peace that has been bought for us at so great a price in wars all the way form the Boer War to the current conflagration in Afghanistan.
It is up to us to maintain that peace and build that peace in our families, in our community, in our Commonwealth and across our globe.
There is a wonderful example of that global reach right here in Avalon with the Pittwater Friends of Soibada who do such great work with our near neighbours in East Timor to whom we owe such a great debt of gratitude for their service to us in time of war.
So you see we have so much to be grateful for.
We also have so much loss to grieve.
Lest we forget.
Our 2014 ANZAC Day pictorial runs in the pictures page this week - please note that we have chosen not to place people's names under their pictures this year - you know who you are, and we know who you are - but choosing to protect the privacy of our younger and older generations also allows the visual record, in sequence, to be appreciated purely for what it is - people honouring those who have served and those who serve still.
Those who contributed to the Dawn and Commemorative Services through prayers, as a choir, bugler or part of the Catafalque party. etc., do form part of our permanent record keeping in this page.
Photographs and extra words by A J Guesdon, 2014.