25th April. In the nineteen seventies I would never have imagined that one day, in my older age I would come to commemorate Anzac Day. Yet here I am, with Euan and thousands of others at the Dawn Service Villers-Bretonneux.
Out of bed at 2am. It’s dark and we pull on as many of our warm clothes as we can and head off into the night. At first all is silent and dark. It’s not raining but it’s cold and there are no stars so it’s cloudy. As we approach Villers-Bretonneux we see more vehicles and a few buses and then note that the roads to the town are all blocked. We park in Fouilloy as do many others and begin the walk to the monument. It’s half way between Fouilloy and Villers-Bretonneux, about 2kms. And it’s up hill.
The road is well lit and there are gendarmes along the way. We arrive and are put through airport style screening and we’re tagged with wrist bracelets like at a rock concert. Then it’s coffee and croissant in a marquee. We move along to find seats quite close to the front and the long, cold sitting begins. For two hours we listen to music- starting with the great anti war song Willy McBride with images of WW1 screened on the face of the tall monument. There are faces too of old men, veterans talking of their experience, of being shot at and in one case of showing no emotion.
Other music followed till 5.30, including Danny Boy and a music version of My Country.
The service that followed was respectful, fairly short and I thought the speeches were eloquent. Wreath laying followed – first officials and then unregistered – I wish I had one for Edward Morgan.
No sun came up, but neither did it rain so more coffee followed and we walked back to Fouilloy. Than we followed a circuitous route to Villers-Bretonneux for more ceremony with the locals and Sir Peter Cosgrove.
I was struck by how many military people were there – no doubt security for our GG and the French Minster of something or other plus ambassadors – including a representative each of German and Turkey.
I must confess the sight of young soldiers in the Australian uniform – gold rising sun on the slouch hat, made me feel sentimental and my throat caught, more than once.
After the services we tried to be French with coffee and something to eat: quiche Lorraine for me.
We were still cold when we got home and after a warm mushroom soup (thanks Euan) I stood under the shower till my feet thawed and then I went to bed.
Two hours later, up to write this and I know there’s more soup to come. I was frozen but I am so glad I was there.
Another good day.