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Dawn service at the Shrine in Melbourne

The tram stop was crowded with young and old in heavy coats and umbrellas. A fine rain fell as we waited in the cold dark. Here I was back in the city of my birth to attend the early morning service a few kilometres up the wide beautiful St. Kilda Road. Quite unlike the rattling green leviathan I fondly remembered, this sleek white vehicle whined as it sped along the beautiful artery. On either side tall new buildings and old stone structures flashed by, while aboard we were silent, stifling pre-dawn yawns.

There was only one destination, the Shrine of Remembrance, and we all piled out and walked across the road shiny with rain, up the grassy hill, drawn by a plaintive bugle and the flickering images of flames on a huge screen. On the western slope, thousands of people were gathered below the softly-lit leaden blockhouse of the Shrine. These early risers remained patient and still under umbrellas and rain jackets. Some gently rocked young sleepers. Men with stiff military bearing stood legs apart at ease, silent and respectful.

By 6 a.m. the bugle had ceased and the orchestra was playing the anthems of New Zealand and Australia. Somewhere, unseen within the throng was the choir and the party of slouch hats and rifles, and the speakers, from whom came poignant words of affection and admiration for the Anzacs’ larrikinism, heroism, and resilience. So different from the original event on that Anzac Day 100 years ago. How amazed would those young men of Australia have been at the manner in which we now commemorate their exploits. Had they known how their sacrifice was being remembered a century hence, I imagine they would have been proud, surprised, amused and horrified, perhaps in equal measure.

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