Anzac Day and a special one as it marks the centenary of the start of the Great War. In Dublin’s Grangegorman Cemetery, there was a gathering as there is every year – the Dawn Service. We stood at 06:30, among the trees, under a blue sky and with the birds singing overhead, thinking about the men – so many young men – who died in Gallipoli and of all the people elsewhere who died in wars not of their making. For myself, I thought of the young Aborigine boy whose grave I had recently visited in Flanders. He was from Raukkan in South Australia, had lied about his age in order to enlist and within a year, was dead behind German lines, still not eighteen.
Today, the gathering included the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, diplomatic representatives from New Zealand, military people from both countries as well as Irish people wearing the blue cap of the UN. Zeki Guler from the Turkish Embassy read from Ataturk’s famous Epilogue. ( Ataturk had fought at Gallipoli as had many local Irish soldiers who had enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.)
Here is a short extract, an address to the mothers who had lost children in Turkey:
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away to countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.
I thought of the Aborigine mother of Rufus Rigney who lost not one but two sons in the Great War, a war fought in a place so distant she may well have never heard of it.
There were readings and the annual Anzac Address, give this year by Professor Jeff Kildea, a visiting academic from Australia.If you want to know more about the Irish who enlisted in the Australian armed forces, check out his website. You’ll learn a few surprising things about that part of history.
There was poetry, two poems in fact, both called Flanders Fields. Here is one of them:
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That marks our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
There was harp music too and finally the Last Post. Then, because Australians are cheery people, the Embassy treated us, as usual, to hot dogs and coffee laced with rum.