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Lest we forget: reflections inspired by ANZAC Day dawn services

By Chin Jin - posted Monday, 29 April 2024

Having lived in Australia for nearly 36 years, I've watched the ANZAC Day parade many times amidst the crowds. Today it is my first time to attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Services held in Martin Place Sydney, experiencing it firsthand.

Many, many people have already gathered here, and all seats in the entire square were filled. Both sides of the square were also lined with participants paying homage and remembering the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Battle of Gallipoli.

The ANZAC Day Dawn Services had already begun earlier than planned while the sky was still dark. The program included speeches, recitations, choir performances, and laying wreaths at the memorial. The first speaker was a representative of the Indigenous Australians, followed by the Premier of New South Wales, the Governor of New South Wales, and many other speakers, each delivering brief but heartfelt speeches. They all solemnly pledged at the end, "Lest we forget."


Attending the Dawn Services today felt markedly different, influenced by the setting and the solemn atmosphere around, I truly felt the gravity and solemnity emanating from the darkness. Though never directly involved in war throughout my life, I could empathize with a sense of pride in the victors of war and the hope for no more wars.

However, this time, I earnestly reflected on the origins and significance of the ANZAC Day, which has been observed for 109 years.

World War I occurred primarily in Europe from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918, initially involved the major European powers. However, as the major European powers became embroiled in conflict, the war eventually spread globally, with most countries around the world getting involved.

In 1914, the major European powers were divided into two camps: the Triple Entente, consisting of France, Britain, and Russia, formed in 1907, and the Triple Alliance, composed of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by Serbian nationalists in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Following this, on July 28, Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary, citing its duty to protect Serbia. Germany, France, and Britain then declared war according to their respective alliances.

When Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, the young Commonwealth of Australia, as a member of the British Empire, immediately followed suit and entered the war. After joining the war effort, enthusiasm for the war surged across Australian society, with the nation displaying unprecedented unity in its attitude towards participation.

ANZAC Day originated from the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I. On April 25, 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. The casualties included 8,709 Australian soldiers and 2,721 New Zealand soldiers.


Although the ANZAC force comprised only 28,150 troops, a relatively small portion of the 500,000-strong Allied force involved in the Gallipoli Campaign, Australia suffered the most casualties in proportion to its population during World War I. About 10% of New Zealand's population (approximately one million at the time) served overseas during the war, making New Zealand the country with the highest casualty rate per capita among all participating nations.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a joint force that participated in the Battle of Gallipoli, as well as in the Middle Eastern and Western Fronts during World War I, all of which ended in failure. Despite this, the Allied side, including the British, ultimately emerged victorious over the Triple Alliance. While the ANZAC forces lost the battle, they, along with the British, were victorious in the war.

Since 1916, ANZAC Day ceremonies have been held on April 25 in both Australia and New Zealand.

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About the Author

Dr Chin Jin is a maverick, activist, campaigner, essayist, freelancer, researcher and organizer with the vision to foresee a new post-Chinese Communist regime era that will present more cooperatively, more constructively and more appropriately to the Asia Pacific region and even the world.

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