Lest we forget…

Today is ANZAC* Day

It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”

ANZAC Day 2020 was not like the ANZAC Day that so many of us are used to participating in. There was a Dawn Service at dawn, with wreaths laid by 4 dignitaries, but the service community and the public stayed at home. The public’s observance was not cancelled. It was just different. The millions of people around the country who would normally attend, at 6.00am stood instead on their decks, their balconies, their drives and their front yards, holding a candle to Light Up the Dawn, wearing their own or their loved one’s medals, and Stood To.**  Those who could, bugled the Last Post or piped a bagpipe lament. Millions of red poppies were placed in front lawns, grass verges and footpaths. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours, we stood in sight of each other, together but apart.

As the Last Post was played during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, we observed the minute of silence to respect and pay tribute to our veterans. Many people took a photo of how they and their neighbours had observed the day, and shared it on the RSL (Returned & Services League) Facebook page using the hashtag #STANDTO. It will be a moving testimony of how much we value and respect the sacrifice of those who served. 

I’m only an ‘honorary’ Aussie, adopted late in life, so I have no Australian forbears who served in WWI to commemorate today. My grandfather did not fight at Gallipoli, where the ANZAC tradition began, but in the killing fields of the Somme. He entered the war as a private, received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, was wounded and spent the end of the war in a German PoW camp, while his fiancée, my grandmother, believed him dead.

These are my grandfather’s medals, normally proudly displayed, but this morning, I wore them in his memory.

On the right are three medals: ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred‘, which are the nicknames given to three WWI campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The medals were automatically sent out; soldiers did not need to apply, but the recipient needed to have fought in a theatre of war; they were not given for simply turning up. (The medals’ nicknames come from a popular comic strip of the time from the Daily Mirror newspaper. Pip was a dog, Squeak a penguin and Wilfred was a baby rabbit.) On the left, the fourth medal shown is the Military Cross, granted in recognition of “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land“.

My grandfather carried a wounded comrade to safety under heavy enemy fire.

Lest we forget.

*Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

**Stand To‘ is short for Stand-to-Arms, the WWI practice of standing to arms at dawn and dusk in preparation for possible enemy attack under cover of darkness. 

39 thoughts on “Lest we forget…

  1. Marty K says:

    What a beautiful and moving tribute to those who have served. Thank you for sharing you grandfather’s story.

    • katechiconi says:

      It was a beautiful, clear, cool morning, so quiet apart from the birds singing, and the distant sound of a bugler playing the Last Post. A fitting commemoration.

  2. Very poignant and beautiful. I do so love the slogan Lest We Forget which means we are definitely making it a point not to ♥️ I personally have no connection to any “wars” fought but Jonathan does … his dad fought in Burma against the Japs in WWII … no medals to show for it but the stories he has left behind are very haunting … we definitely Don’t forget ♥️

  3. jmcheney says:

    Thank you for showing us your grandfather’s medals. I know you were very proud to wear them in his memory. He was very courageous & I’m glad he survived WWI & came home to his faithful sweetheart & because of that you are here to honor him today. And the world is grateful to all the brave & true service members of Australia & New Zealand.

  4. anne54 says:

    What a brave and courageous person your Granddad was. However, I suspect that if he was told that he would have humbly replied that he did it to save a mate. It must have been a time of turmoil for your Grandma too, and then great joy to find out he was still alive!

  5. magpiesue says:

    What a moving tribute. Thank you for sharing. I have veterans on both sides of my family and honor them for their service and sacrifices.

    • katechiconi says:

      Each country has its own tradition of commemorating the service and sacrifices of its fallen and veterans. I miss the Remembrance Day parades in London on 11th November, but I can at least join in the ANZAC remembrance. They all served…

  6. Lovely that you have his medals, and keep his memory alive x

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s hard to realise that it was all more than 100 years ago… But courage and valour are no less remarkable at that distance. I’m just sorry I have no children to pass them on to. They will have to go to my nearest siblings’ children.

  7. Beautiful tribute to your grandfather and all who served and serve. We and our neighbours were at the end of our driveways at 5.55 am and paid our respects with the assistance of very good ABC Radio coverage from the War Memorial. It was small and simple but the feeling of solidarity was big.

    • katechiconi says:

      Same here. It was good to look up and down the street and see the light of the candles and torches, and the people in their front yards growing more visible as the light increased.

  8. tialys says:

    As there are less and less survivors to remind us, it becomes almost more important to remember.
    Did you hear about the 99 year old war veteran – Captain Tom Moore – who pledged to walk 100 laps of his garden hoping to raise £1,000 to help the NHS? He captured the nation’s imagination and, to date, has actually raised over 28 million pounds. He turned 100 last week. An inspiration.

    • katechiconi says:

      Oh, we’ve had LOADS of coverage about Capt Moore and his chart topping version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, as well as his $55million fundraising effort 🙂
      You’re right about the falling numbers of the survivors. We’ll continue to remember them, but they will no longer be with us to tell their stories… so much true history lost, and we will have to rely on the sanitised version in the history books.

  9. nanacathy2 says:

    What a beautiful way to remember those veterans. I’m trying to imagine the joy of your grandmother and your great grandparents when they found out that you Grandad was ok. My parents used the expression Pip, Squeek and Whistle ( maybe it was wilf) I don’t now but I never knew where it came from, used a bit like Going to see a man about a dog. I was always disappointed when a new dog didn’t come home. PS Captain Tom has now raised 33 million for NHS Charities Together and is to be guest of honour at the opening of the Nightingale hospital in Harrogate and is to have fly past in his honour for his 100th birthday on 30 April. A school is displaying all his cards because the number is too great!

  10. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Aren’t people amazing?! Going to war, medical staff at the moment, Captain Tom and others who raise money for others, kids painting rainbows… And what a lovely way to remember them with candles and standing on your steps.. I think that would mean more to me than a march past a cenotaph or a religious service.

    • katechiconi says:

      I think as a nation, more of us marked the occasion *because* it was on our own doorstep and we didn’t have to jump into a car, find a parking spot, stand for an hour, etc. Up and down the street, there were candles, home made poppies ‘planted’ in the grass verge, and lovingly created paper wreaths from the primary school children hanging on fences. The Dawn Service from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra was live streamed and available to everyone on their mobile phones. It made it much more intimate and domestic, and in a sense, owned by the people and not by the authorities.

  11. Sharon says:

    Beautiful posting and reminder to honor all who served, no matter where we live – thank you!

  12. kymlucas says:

    Beautiful reminder of the sacrifices that so many made simply because it was the right thing to do. And this serves as a reminder, at least to me, that our medical workers are on a different type of front line, often inadequately protected thanks to those who call themselves our leaders. The rest of us must do the right thing by distancing so hospitals are not overcome and can handle the influx of patients who truly need their help.

    Hope you don’t feel I’ve hijacked ANZAC Day or your post to say this. I was just struck by the congruence of these two groups of people who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice on our behalf.

    • katechiconi says:

      No indeed, medical workers, who are simply fighting in a different theatre of war, are equally deserving of our respect and our remembrance. I find it hard to stomach the attitude that my job is more important than your life… so yes, yes, yes, stay home, stay safe, stay well, save lives.

      • kymlucas says:

        Thanks, Kate. You are so generous. Just learned my niece is nursing coronavirus positive patients in England. She’s only just finishing training, and her on-the-job training became this instead of the work experience originally set up. So, wow. What a way to start, eh?

      • katechiconi says:

        My word, what a baptism of fire. It’ll make her fearless and compassionate. My fingers are crossed for her to come out the other side unscathed and undeterred.

      • kymlucas says:

        I have the same hopes.

  13. craftycreeky says:

    I thought the dawn service was a beautiful way to remember, a few of my family over there posted photos of their candles at dawn – and one over here in Weston super Mare, who felt a bit lonely!

    • katechiconi says:

      It was beautiful, and many, many people felt more ownership of the celebration because it was ‘of the people, by the people’. I suspect the tradition will continue even after the lockdown is over.

  14. Emmely says:

    It is great how alternative ways to remember are found. We’ll also remember from home on May 4, I am hoping we’ll be able to hear someone play the Last Post and National anthem from our window.

    • katechiconi says:

      Surely they’ll have it on the radio or internet and people will turn up the volume so it can be heard. But I agree, live music would be better…

      • Emmely says:

        Oh, we can certainly watch a live stream of the memorial in Amsterdam. It’s being held without an audience which will probably be really weird.

  15. Joanne S says:

    It is nice to put a face and story to this historical time of sacrifice.

    • katechiconi says:

      It is. There is great reverence for our veterans in Australia, and a great tradition of youngsters proudly wearing the medals of the generations before them in the ANZAC parades.

  16. cbholganza says:

    my salute to your grand-dad an to all the vets of Aus and NZ. i truly admire the tradition you have and that reverence you demonstrate for your forebears. wish we had that in my country.

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