Day 24: Lest we forget

The Shrine of Remembrance

THE old soldiers marched again today, April 25, and even though there aren’t many Diggers from World War II who can still march and ever dwindling numbers of Vietnam veterans, there is always something very emotive about the Anzac Day parade.

It’s one of the few days that makes me really proud to be Australian, not because of any glorification of war, but because as a young nation, Australia played a leading role on the world stage and came through with flying colours.

A few years ago, I spent Anzac Day at Villers Bretonneux and exploring the battlefields of the Somme in France (where more Australians died in six weeks than in eight months of the Gallipoli campaign) where rolling green fields show little sign of the bloody trenches where young men from the opposite side of the world found themselves in hell.

Natives helped injured Diggers from the jungles of New Guinea in World War II
Then … and now. A Digger walks in the parade with a New Guinean.

The most rewarding part of that visit was not the service and the speeches, cemeteries filled with rows of white crosses or the engraved stone edifices but being approached by a young Frenchman, while sitting at a street café at Bonnay, a small village nearby.

Although barely 20-years-old, when he heard I was Australian, he immediately asked if I was there for Anzac Day (he pronounced it on-zoc).

That a young man in France should know of the Anzacs meant that the efforts of all those young Australians who died on the Somme did not die in vain; that almost a century after fighting in a foreign country so far from home, their efforts were not forgotten.

As the first Anzacs looked when they marched off to World War I

And listening to the brass and pipe bands play Waltzing Matilda as the old (and young) men and women marched through the streets of Brisbane today, I again felt great gratitude to those who proved that Australia, a comparatively young country with a small population, could make a difference in the world.

Anzac Square

The Shrine of Remembrance, dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1930,  is off Ann Street, fronting Anzac Square where for decades Australians of all ages have gathered at dawn on Anzac Day to pay their respects to those who have fought in all wars.

Anzac Square, between Adelaide and Ann Streets, is dedicated to Australia’s military heritage with the Shrine of Remembrance and the Eternal Flame as its focal point. There are water features, an avenue of magnificent bottle trees and Bribie Island pines and statues commemorating the various theatres of war.

A touch and tell system  explains the significance of the area.

Anzac Day wreaths in the Shrine of Remembrance
The Vietnam War memorial

There is plenty of seating and green lawns and today was its special day as a crowd of 50,000 lined the streets of Brisbane to watch the old men march and to pause and remember the fallen.

World War II memorial