ANZAC day has always been special in my family. It is the national day of remembrance for those who fought for our freedoms in all wars since the Great War, which many hoped would be the world’s last. It is signified by wearing the red poppy in both New Zealand and Australia, and this year feels particularly poignant.
The red poppy is a chosen symbol because it was one of the first flowers to bloom in Flanders Fields where so many battleground deaths occurred in the First World War. The red blooms blowing in the Belgian breeze became a symbol of blood and destruction as well as growth and regeneration. Its association is not unique to ANZAC, and the red poppy is often worn in other nations on Armistice Day (11 November) for example.
I have attended many dawn services at cenotaphs; attended the march of the veterans from Martin Place in Sydney where horses are part of the parade, to the pre-light war memorial at Auckland War Memorial Museum, and latterly the Grey Lynn RSC at home village. We have previously posted war memorials we have visited during our travels, most recently the one in Leros. This year we are honouring ANZAC day away from home.
The sound of measured, hammering footsteps drumming the tarmac as soldiers march in the dark before the dawn, really resonates with me this morning. The mournful bugle sound of the Last Post hanging hauntingly and then silent as we pay our respects. These days it is the children, great-grandchildren, and beyond that march in remembrance of their forebears.
We have written before about how many red poppies there are that grow wild here – the hardy flower is found everywhere screaming their scarlet blood red colour from pretty farm fields to dirty pavement cracks. We take photos of them because they are a significant specimen of flower for us. They remind us of home. Of our past. Of our fallen. “War – never again,” they said. Our hope is for peace in the future.
The ‘Last Post’ consists only of 3 notes. Whilst it is associated with military remembrance, it was originally a final sentry post that camp inspection was complete, and it was a sign that the battle had ended so that troops could safely collect and retreat with their own.
Fittingly, there is music today, but a well known poem of respect. ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”.