Anzac spirit dawns on Albany

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A Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Simon Philpott.
Camera IconA Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Simon Philpott. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

As dawn approached the historic city of Albany this morning, Mt Clarence was packed with people paying their respects to those who fought for our country.

The Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial moved those in attendance, as community members and former and current servicemen and women came together to honour the Anzacs.

The service started with the Australian and New Zealand National Anthems, sung by Dione Nesbitt.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Warrant Officer Gary Clark gave the keynote address, recognising the special place Albany had in the Anzac story.

The first convoy of Anzac soldiers departed Albany for World War I on November 1, 1914.

Desert Mounted Corps Memorial.
Camera IconDesert Mounted Corps Memorial. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

“At the time of the departure, the Maoris on board their New Zealand troop ships did hakas and the Australians replied with resounding ‘cooees’, which helped enhance a special bond between our two nations,” he said.

He spoke about the emotions felt across the two countries 100 years ago today, when the war was over but so many loved ones had been lost.

“Newspapers contained many messages from grieving families commemorating the losses they had suffered at Gallipoli on 25th of April, 1915 and in more recent battles,” Mr Clark said.

“The family of Private Herb Blackie, who died of wounds just after Anzac Day 1918, inserted a notice in their local newspaper which ended with these words: Oh, we long for the boy who we loved so well and the smile of the lad who is gone.”

A Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Hayden Spaanderman and City of Albany Band's Justin Laing.
Camera IconA Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Hayden Spaanderman and City of Albany Band's Justin Laing. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Mr Clark, from Christchurch, also touched on last month’s terror attack in his home city.

“As a nation we are still grieving for those lost, for the suffering of families and also from the knowledge that this kind of crime could happen in our part of the world,” he said.

“But we have also seen a resolve for a strengthened and inclusive community where such hate cannot exist.”

Albany Senior High School student Pemba Spargo recited Wilfried Owen’s WWI poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth, bringing home the horrors of war.

Pemba Spargo.
Camera IconPemba Spargo. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?

Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.

The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

The last post was played by local bugler Justin Laing before the crowd reflected during the minute’s silence.

City of Albany Band's Justin Laing.
Camera IconCity of Albany Band's Justin Laing. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

At the end of the service, the crowd was asked to look east as Albany Sea Rescue fired a flare into the sky and laid a wreath in King George Sound.

Many remained at the memorial to soak up the view as the sky brightened, while others went on to the Gunfire Breakfast at the Albany Boatshed.

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