Monday, 28 April 2014

Anzac Day 2014 in Hong Kong

What date is ANZAC day?

A. 28 April
B. 25 April 
C. 25 March
D. 26 January
E. None of the above

You can’t become Australian without knowing the answer. It was one of the questions that had me thumbing through the answer booklet, during my on-line Australian citizenship practice test...

I was excited to attend my first ANZAC Day ceremony, as an Australian citizen. Luckily jet lag worked in our favour, as we were in Hong Kong on a stop over.  We were up bright eyed and bushy tailed, at the crack of dawn.

What is ANZAC day? 
ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

It was a typical dreary, slightly muggy, Hong Kong day as we gathered at the Cenotaph. The tall buildings of Central emerge statuesque in the half light of dawn, towering above the small monument below. The flags on the shine are limp and lifeless. 

The top of the IFC building remains steadfastly hidden in mist and clouds through out the ceremony. A light sprinkling of rain adds to the sombre atmosphere. 

We stood in silence, taking in the scene, umbrellas up, waiting, happy that our 48 hour stop over allowed us this opportunity to participate. Representatives in military uniform, looked serious, heads bowed together, as if discussing some tactical move.  Or maybe Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of Navy is giving a quick check on numbers for Grappas, the traditional Gunfire Breakfast which follows.

Phil Waugh and Leonie Drew, Co-Heads of the Australian International School, are also locked in a briefing session. For a dawn service there are a good number of students present. The kids are in school uniform looking smart with clean pressed shirts, courtesy of the Helpers that many AISHK families will employ to assist with domestic duties. Two students stand amongst the dignitaries, ready to lay the school’s wreath. 

Later on, the School will conduct it’s own Anzac Day Memorial ceremony for all pupils out on it’s synthetic turf playing fields at Kowloon Tong. 

At the same time the school has 13 students from years 9 & 10 in Turkey, taking part in the Anzac Day ceremony in Gallipoli. That is one memorable school field trip! You can read more about it here

It feels a million years ago that we were living in Hong Kong, with our kids attending this wonderful school.

The small crowd, perhaps only three to five deep in places, grows and waits. The participants are for most part dressed in business suits, this is no National Holiday, unlike back home. We are a largely ex-pat crowd of Australians and New Zealanders. Many would not dream of missing the Anzac Day service ‘lest we forget’ either the Anzacs, or the Homeland. 

A trio of Consulate-Generals and other dignitaries appear along with a smattering of tourists, a couple of Turks, and a man in a kilt, playing the bagpipes very insistently!

What does ANZAC stand for?
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day. 
A few members of the crowd are wearing family medals. Some are war veterans themselves. 

To find out why is this day special to Australians click here?
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

The Consul-General of Turkey Mr Haldun Tekneci read out a statement by Turkish Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the following moving reading
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives,
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly nation
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us
where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears;
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are at peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well
Ataturk, 1934

Early commemorations
The 25th of April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. Next year will be the 100th ANZAC day. 
Many Australian’s have a trip to Gallipoli on their bucket list, but if you’re not yet confirmed as registered, forget it for next year. The ballot was massively over subscribed for 2015.

What does it mean today?
Australians all over the world recognise 25 April as an occasion of national remembrance for all Australians killed in military operations. which can take two forms; a Dawn service and our major cities and towns will also hold an Anzac Parade held later in the day.
The Dawn Service has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Today our service includes the presence of a chaplain, the Rev Desmond Cox from St John’s Anglican Cathedral, who reads the Anzac Prayer. 
A lone bugler from the Hong Kong Police Band plays the Last Post, we have a one minute silence and conclude with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up. Looking up we see a small lone bugler hardly visible over the towering balcony. 

Lest we Forget

Linking with thanks to the hosts with Our World Tuesday

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