The Tradition

The Tradition

It was at Gallipoli that there emerged the tradition of ANZAC with the ideals of courage and sacrifice
and the principles of mateship that distinguish and unite all Australians

The Ode of Remembrance

“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”.
They shall not grow old…”

Here is the full text of the Ode to the Fallen by
0 L Binyon which includes the often used statement of
remembrance … They shall not grow old…

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns her dead across the sea
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted
They fell with their faces to the foe.

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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again
They sit no more at familiar tables at home
They have not lot in our labour of the daytime
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are our hopes profound
Felt as a well spring that is hidden from sight
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Composed by O.L. Binyon and adopted after World War 2 by the Australian RSL in remembrance of fallen comrades. The ode is recited daily, facing the west(the going down of the sun), usually at 9pm, followed by one minute of silence, in RSL Clubs across Australia.
The daily observance of one minutes silence originated in WW1 when when a British Officer on the eve of a battle, told his close friend Major Tudor Pole. “I shall not come through this struggle. You will survive and see a greater and more vital conflict. When that time comes, remember us. Lend us a moment of it each day, and by your silence give us our opportunity. The power of silence is greater than you know..”
Major Pole survived the war and later became the Chairman of the Big Ben Council. The idea of a daily moment of unity in silence was born. It became known as the “Silent Minute” and it is was signalled by the chiming and stroking of Big Ben at 9 pm each evening. The hour of 9pm was chosen because millions of people all over the world listened to the daily broadcast of the ringing of Big Ben at 9 pm precisely and this became the signal to observe one minutes silence. Many listeners did not know the significance of that moment in time.

The Tradition

ANZAC – The sacrifice at Gallipoli shared by men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915 and then fought the extremes of trench warfare for eight long months, will never be forgotten. Their courage and sacrifice is remembered each year on the 25th April.

The ANZAC day march of 1916 was the only parade allowed in London during the First World War. Australian troops were the only troops allowed to march through that city and that year in London the ANZAC took over, briefly.

Thanks to Michael McKernan and Peter Stanley for their wonderful book “ANZAC Day – Seventy years on.” Most of the information for this article came from that book.


ANZAC day is one of Australia’s national days, and it remains a day that many Australians identify with – even as the old diggers fade away.

ANZAC Day has evolved over the years. Very few of those at home in 1916 on the first anniversary would have made much the day. Of course there were no troops to cheer. Churchmen organised some commemorative services and to these were added, no doubt, many private, personal recollections. In London the ANZAC took over, briefly. The Australian high commission planned an elaborate celebration which included a march of Australian troops through the heart of the capital and culminating in a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the King and Queen. Newspapers encouraged Londoners to turn out in large numbers to give the Australians a heroes’ welcome and asked women to bring flowers to throw at the troops. The success of the march rewarded these exhortations. So great was the crush of the crowd that the ANZAC were unable to march in formation but walked in groups, acknowledging the affection and applause.

At the Abbey, 2000 Australians gave full voice to the hymn ‘For all the Saints who from their labours rest’, bringing tears to the eyes of many in the congregation. There was more than a hint of ‘swank’ in the Australian parade, as if the ANZAC had performed so much better than other allied soldiers. The landing was an event of enormous significance in Australia, but for older nations, whose history over the years tells of wars and campaigns above all else, Gallipoli represented little more than another short and bloody adventure.

In the later war years ANZAC day was kept up by the Australians within their own units, marked usually by a church parade and a special dinner. Troops of other nations too, wanted to share the day with the Australians as W.E. Dexter, the chaplain, recorded in his diary. He had come across two Tommies (British soldiers) walking in Bapaume on ANZAC Day 1917, as drunk as could be. Dexter told the men to go home to bed: “Excuse him, sir”, one of them said, “he’s been keeping up ANZAC”. “It seems to bid fair”, Dexter predicted, “to become a universal excuse for a bust”. At home the day continued to be marked by church services and school commemorations and, as War memorials began to be built even as the war continued, there were a few wreath-laying ceremonies.

Australian troops returned to no great victory parades, partly because they came back so irregularly during 1919 and 1920. Also because of the influenza pandemic of early to mid 1919 which stopped people mixing together in large numbers. ANZAC Day was commemorated by units and associations privately, rather than in a major public way in the early twenties.

Slowly though, the ex-soldiers began to perceive a need for an institutionalised reunion as they inevitably began to drift apart. A tour of Australia by their best loved commander, General Birdwood, brought matters to a head and some traditions began to emerge. There was considerable rather silly argument about whether the day should be a holiday, and if so, whether it should be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’. Would remembrance grow or be demeaned by alcohol? Eventually the wowsers won, except that the ex-diggers were freed of all restraints, and by the 1950’s ANZAC Day was as lifeless as Good Friday without the prospect of the Easter holidays to make up for it. Before long a march of returned men became the focus of ANZAC Day. Usually the men were in civilian clothes, although some turned out in their old uniforms, particularly in the early days. Most wore their campaign medals and decorations. They marched not en-masse but in their AIF groupings because their first loyalty had always been to their battalion or section. They created banners to identify each unit, decorating them with their colour patches and battle honours, and these banners became a feature of the march, allowing onlookers to work out who was who. In those days and for some people still, Australian military history was folk history and everyone, even those unrelated to a battalion, knew of its exploits. You would hear people say as a battalion marched by, ‘Ah! the Xth. They were mauled at Mouquet Farm – Only 430 men out of 1000 answered the roll call after 3 days fighting. But so and so won the VC and the battalion also included…’
The point of the march, in Sydney or the bush, was to gather all the returned men together and to draw them to one central spot, a shrine or memorial, for a service of commemoration.

The original ANZAC have have all gone, but they will never be forgotten.

The celebration continues to change and evolve but it still retains a great significance for many millions of Australians of all generations and now diverse ethnic backgrounds, with Poles and other Europeans and the Vietnamese proud to march beside the diggers.

Australians will continue to remember that first ANZAC Day in dawn services and other commemorative events. Let us hope too, that they will never forget what Australians endured and achieved in France and Belgium, the Middle east, New Guinea and the Islands, Malaya, Borneo, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam. Let us hope that they will reflect on the futility and horror of war and vow each ANZAC Day that there should be no more of it.

Dawn Service – Is a solemn Australian tradition. At dawn on the 25 April 23 on Mt Clarence overlooking King George Sound, Albany, West Australia, the reverend Arthur Ernest White, with some 20 men with him, silently watched a wreath floating out to sea. He then quietly said “As the sun rises and goeth down we will remember them”. Those present were deeply moved and the news of the ceremony soon spread and has become an important part of the ritual of remembering.

Remembrance Day – Was originally observed as “Armistice Day”, being the end of the “Great War” (WWI) and the signing of the Armistice. Following the end of the Second World War, King George VI directed that the 11 November be also set aside for tributes to be paid to the lives lost in World War I and World War II. In Australia, where the major observance is carried out on ANZAC Day, Australia has continued to promote the theme of Remembrance by maintaining the observance of two minutes silence at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

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The Colours– The custom of dedicating and laying up of colours in churches and in memorials has its origins in antiquity. Colours originated from early days when man fixed his family badge to a pole and held it aloft in battle to indicate his position and to provide a rallying point for his troops. Colours are symbolic of a fighting unit’s spirit and a visual record of gallant deeds performed by the members of the unit. These are recorded by reference to the location of the deed and on Colours are called “Battle Honours”.

The Poppy – November is poppy month, the time of the year when by the wearing of a simple emblem, a red poppy, we salute the memory of those who sacrificed their health, their strength, even their lives that we might live in a free country. Legend has it, that the poppy goes back to the time of the 12th and 13th century and Genghis Khan and as was associated with human sacrifice. Legend states that Genghis Khan would annihilate his enemies totally, leaving the battlefields literally drenched with blood, where white poppies grew in vast profusion. Today the poppy is worn as a mark of respect and is also used to raise money to aid incapacitated soldiers.

The Rosemary– The emblem of the rosemary dates back to the days of early Greece and Barbarians and was used as a type of incense at funerals, as a symbol of fidelity and remembrance. Today, rosemary is worn on ANZAC Day in honour of the fallen in war, the gesture has a sacred and solemn background.

Catafalque Party– A catafalque, is normally a raised platform supporting a bier on which a coffin rests, it may be represented for ceremonial purposes by a shrine or remembrance stone. A catafalque party is a guard mounted over a catafalque during a period of lying in state, a military funeral, at a memorial such as ANZAC Day and during a service in a church for a recently deceased distinguished personage. A catafalque party consists of four sentries, a reserve and a commander.
Resting on Arms Reverse
– The reversed arms are an acknowledgment of the shame of killing (Death puts the rifle to shame) and the reversal of the barrel is a fitting sign of reverence. First used at the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough in 1722.
The Three Volleys – Traced back to the funeral of Sir Philip Sidney as being fired in the name of the Holy Trinity. Superstition has it that the door of men’s hearts stand ajar at such times and the volleys are fired into the air at imaginary devils.

The “Digger” – The terminology “Digger” is used to describe Australian fighting men and was first used to describe the Miners (Diggers) from the gold fields who stood in defiance against colonial troops at the Eureka Stockade. Australian troops immortalised the “Digger” fighting the tragic battles at Gallipoli and has been proudly borne since. Digger is also a term of friendship and comradeship.

The Slouch Hat – According to what is known, the Slouch Felt Hat was born as a result of a shortage of helmets during the South African War. Sir Harry Chauvel traced the hat from Tyrolean style felt hat first worn by the South African Police and later by the Victorian Mounted Rifle Regiment.

The first unit to wear the Slouch Hat was the Imperial Bushmen’s Corps, which was raised in January 1900. To date the famous “Slouch Hat” is still worn by Australian soldiers.

The Rising Sun Badge – A Badge of Distinction – The design of the Rising Sun Badge worn by Australian soldiers was inspired by a brace of bayonets mounted on a plaque on the office wall of General Sir Edward Hutton. The bayonet shield was the brainchild of Major Joseph Maria Gordon. Major Hutton originated the trophy as a “meaningful symbol of Defence”. He often referred to it as the “rising sun”. The trophy was actually constructed by Commander William Creswell, Commandant of the Naval Forces of South Australia. At the turn of the century, Maj Hutton was appointed Commander in Chief of Australian Forces and was confronted with the problem of designing a badge for Australian forces in South Africa – part of the problem was that the British troops wore slouch hats also, and something was needed to make it distinctively Australian.

While studying sketches for the badge he pointed to the bayonet trophy of arms which was fastened to the wall over his office door – Room 52A, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne and remarked, “Why not something like that”. Thus the Rising Sun Badge became the familiar symbol of the Australian forces. The badge has gone many evolutionary changes over the decades, albeit extremely subtle. Irony has associated the badge with the rising sun and not bayonets.

For many years the original trophy which inspired the Rising Sun Badge was relegated to a remote corner of a drill hall at HMAS Cerberus. It was put into store, but in 1967 it was refurbished and given pride of place on public view at the main entrance to Russell Hill Defence Headquarters in Canberra.

The End