Firstly, a brief explanation. Anzac Day is arguably the most important day on the Australian and New Zealand calendar. ANZAC means Australian and New Zealand Army Corp and refers to the combined armies of the two countries who, when members of the British Empire fought together in the name of the Empire. The term was coined during World War I when these two Antipodean countries joined together to fight Britain’s war in Europe, even that that war would have had no immediate impact on the two countries.
Both countries lost a considerable number of troops in that and subsequent wars.
Anzac Day is held on April 25th each year to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli which was part of The Dardenelles in Turkey. It was a foolish action launched by the British commanders which ended in a vast loss of men and a defeat at the hands of the Turkish army. To many Australians it is regarded as the day on which Australia really did become a nation due to the sacrifice of so many.
I was in Katherine as part of an Anzac Tribute Tour on The Ghan, a train which runs from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south, and which is rightly regarded as being one of the world’s great train journeys.
We arrived in Katherine on the evening of 24 April, and were whisked straight out to Katherine Gorge were we enjoyed a dinner under the stars and a fabulous concert by James Blundell, who was accompanying us on the tour. To listen to James performing his song ‘Kimberley Moon’ under a full moon in such a marvelous location was a wonderful and quite emotional experience.
Next morning we attended the Dawn Service in Katherine, which is an Australian tradition. Katherine was bombed by the Japanese in World War II, so the service had a very special significance.
It was a wonderful experience to stand by the War Memorial as the majority of townsfolk turned up before dawn to remember those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of Australia.
A few hours’ later we returned to the town for,the traditional Anzac Day March in which those who served wear their medals, and those who march on behalf of their deceased family members also march to go our their forebears. The march was followed by another ceremony at the War Memorial.
Although Australians and New Zealanders have fought in many wars together and separately it is rare for any attackers to reach our shores, because of our location and the difficulty of reaching our shores.
To be in a town which did suffer the effects of attack was a,very special experience because of the significance of the location, and is a memory that I shall hold for a very long time.