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.
It is tradition in schools to celebrate Anzac day, not as a glorification of war but as a celebration of remembrance and gratitude, showing respect for, and honouring, those men and women who have represented Australia in many theatres of war. Their sacrifice, and in some cases, their ultimate sacrifice, is symbolic of the freedoms we now enjoy as Australians.
It is right that we, at least once a year, stop, reflect, and remember the Anzacs and give thanks.
During St Catherine’s annual Anzac Assembly Service, we welcomed Australian Defence Force Commander Jeannine March-Gough, to provide the keynote address. Jeannine is the Commanding Officer of the Joint Health Unit Victoria and Tasmania. She spoke of the value of the Anzac spirit, true Australian mateship and also reminded students of the role of women in the war efforts, particularly the strength, fortitude and capacity of Australian nurses.
Research undertaken by our School Archivist, Melissa Campbell, reveals St Catherine’s Old Girl, Noel Warner (Ferguson ’35) joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service, trained in the Royal Naval Meteorological Service and served in London throughout the blitz and Battle of Britain. Later, she was commissioned and served with the Royal Navy in North and South Africa.
At this time, we also remember St Catherine’s Old Girl, Jennifer Walker (’35) who died serving her country on the 2/3rd Australian Hospital Ship, HMAS Centaur, when it was torpedoed from a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland on May 14, 1943. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived. The Centaur’s wreck was only discovered on 20 December, 2009, located off the tip of Moreton Island, Queensland’s south-east coast. Jennifer was the youngest of the group of nurses who served on the Centaur.
Each year, St Catherine’s School Captains are invited to lay a wreath at the Annual Anzac Commemorative Service for Nurses, honouring Victorian nurses at the Nurses Memorial Centre on St Kilda Road.
Our Year 3 girls again made poppies to form a wreath used in the Junior School Assembly this week. The poppy is not exclusively associated with Anzac Day but also Remembrance Day, which marks the end of World War One. After the conflict, poppies began to appear on the war-ravaged and barren battlefields of France and Flanders, where fallen soldiers lay. Therefore, the red poppy became a symbol of sacrifice; appearing in the fields as if fed by the blood of the fallen.
Some may question why, in Australia, do we, as a nation, dedicate a multitude of dawn services across the country to the memory of a military disaster at Gallipoli in 1915? Simply put, in the history of Australia, Gallipoli represents a first test in nationhood and the first test of the Australian values and ideals on the world stage. This all took place more than 100 years ago.
The landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 created the Anzac legend. This legend was that a group of ordinary Australians took on the enemy under great difficulties, fought magnificently, endured where others might not have, and showed great human qualities. They did not win this battle strategically but they set a standard and an example which others then could live up to. From 1916, the first celebration of Anzac Day, the character of these young soldiers representing Australia became legendary. It is this character, informed by their example of determination, mateship, courage, endurance and irreverent humour, which has become the standard upon which many Australian actions in both war and peace have been modelled.
Those who served in the Gallipoli campaign, which lasted from 25 April until 20 December 1915, won our hearts, our grief, our pride and respect, and have become a symbolic reminder of all who have served ever since; we will remember them.
Lest we forget.