The Canberra ANZAC Day Dawn Service
On April 25, 2018, over 38,000 people gathered at the Australian War Memorial for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service to remember the sacrifices made by Australian men and women in war.
Prior to the service, a representative from each of the three arms of the Australian Defence Force read excerpts from letters and diaries belonging to Australian servicemen and women.
These ranged from letters written by World War One diggers moments before they ‘went over the top’ to those written by soldiers who served in Afghanistan, detailing their experiences with warfare in the 21st Century.
Some letters told of the horror of the First World War, such as a letter from a soldier who, after the armistice, was set the task of digging up the mass graves of allied soldiers, buried a year earlier. His job was to try and identify any Australians, with a goal set to identify at least 90% of the Australians who had been killed.
Another letter told of a soldier during WWI who looked at his watch before telling his men it was almost time for them to leave the trench and that they had ten minutes left to live so they should give it everything they had.
The stories gave a graphic picture of the tremendous sacrifice that Australian soldiers have made over the last 103 years and as the clock ticked to 5:30am the service began, a solemn occasion of remembrance.
The service started with the haunting sound of a Didgeridoo played by a soldier looking down at those assembled in front of the War Memorial, before Chaplain Peter Willis presented the ANZAC Dedication and wreaths were laid at the Stone of Remembrance.
The Commemorative Address was given by Retired Colonel Susan Neuhaus, the first woman to speak at a Canberra Dawn Service.
Colonel Neuhaus focused on the contribution women have made to the armed forces.
She told the story of 22 Australian Army nurses who were killed by the Japanese during World War Two.
During their evacuation from Singapore their ship was torpedoed, and they swam all night until they reached the shore. When they arrived, they were met by enemy soldiers who lined them up on the beach and, despite them wearing a red cross on their arm, opened fire on them with a machine gun.
Colonel Neuhaus also spoke of how the significance of the sacrifices made by our ANZACs will never diminish, even as fewer Australians each year can speak of a family member who had served.
The service concluded with the Australian National Anthem which was sung as the sun rose over Mount Ainslie and attendees were then invited to place a poppy at the tomb of the unknown soldier and have a moment of personal reflection.