Commemorating Anzac Day: Echoes Of The Past

Commemorating Anzac Day: Echoes Of The Past

Domestic Policy
Saturday, 25 April 2020

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Lest we forget

For more than a century, Anzac Day has been an important commemoration for Australia — a day to honour those who have served our nation in conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the world.

Sadly, Australians can’t attend services as we traditionally would this Anzac Day. We can’t gather at our memorials or watch our veterans marching or reunite at RSLs to play games of two-up.

But this isn’t the first time that Australians have had to mark Anzac Day differently.

On 25 April 1919 — the first Anzac Day after the Great War — there were no major city marches or parades for our returning veterans, because Australians were battling the influenza pandemic.

On Anzac Day 1942 — in the midst of the Second World War — government orders again banned large public gatherings in case of a Japanese air attack, so Anzac Day festivities were subdued.

Our servicemen and women have also often observed this day differently when on overseas duty.

On Anzac Day 1918, two Australian brigades put their commemorations aside so they could put all their efforts into recapturing the French town of Villers-Bretonneux from the German Army.

In 1944, some 400 Australian prisoners of war — including the renowned medical officer Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop — marked this day with a makeshift service at Hellfire Pass in western Thailand.

On 25 April 1945 — exactly 30 years after the first Anzacs landed on Gallipoli — Australian airmen launched a raid on Hitler’s Reich, dropping bombs on a mountain retreat thought to shelter Nazi elite.

As has happened before, Australians are adapting how they commemorate Anzac Day this year.

We are honouring the past in a way that meets the needs of the present.

But even though we must stay physically apart, we still join together to pay respect to our servicemen and women and to remember the sacrifices made in our name.

Lest we forget.