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April - Albany ANZAC Day Dawn Service

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Albany ANZAC Day Dawn Service

The Albany ANZAC Day Dawn Service has been declared the fourth Western Australian Heritage Icon.

The ANZAC Tradition

The ANZAC tradition, with its ideals of courage, endurance and mateship, was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in western Turkey. This was the start of the heroic but unsuccessful, campaign to capture the Dardanelles Strait and ended eight months later in December 1915. This action resulted in 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8,700 who were killed or died of wounds or disease.

Australia was a country newly comes to Federation. Despite the agreement of the six colonies to become one nation, there had been no event that galvanised the population to act in a united way. Many Australians regard ANZAC Day as the true beginning of nationhood. This day united a nation and added the word ANZAC to the Australian and New Zealand vocabularies and created the notion of the ANZAC spirit.

The Dawn Service, Why at Dawn?

The Dawn Service has its origins in an operational routine that is still observed by the Australian Army today. The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers' eyes and from the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey misty shadows, became one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons.

The Significance of Albany

It was from Albany on November 1 1914, that the first ANZAC convoy set sail for war. On board the 38 ships were 30,000 troop and 7500 horses. For many of these troops, as the ships sailed out from King George Sound, it was the last glimpse of Australia they ever saw.

Although there is some conjecture regarding the first observance of the dawn ceremony in Australia, a Church of England clergyman, Reverend Arthur Ernest White is believed to have held the first religious dawn service in Albany.

In a small cemetery outside the town of Herberton in northern Queensland, a simple grave is marked with a cross and the inscription A Priest. This is the grave of this dedicated clergyman. In recent times a simple marker has been placed next to the grave and reads:

Adjacent to, and on the right of this marker, lies the grave of the late Reverend Arthur Ernest White, a Church of England clergyman and padre, 44th Battalion, First Australian Imperial Force. On 25th April 1923, at Albany in Western Australia, the Reverend White led a party of friends in what was the first ever observance of a Dawn parade on ANZAC Day, thus establishing a tradition which has endured, Australia wide ever since.

Until the late 1900s, colonists also quarried limestone from the Scarp to provide much needed building materials for the town of Perth.

Reverend White was serving as one of padres of the ANZAC's to leave Australia with the AIF. The convoys assembled in the Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound in Albany. It is believed that before embarkation, at four in the morning, he conducted a service for all the men of the battalion.

In 1918, after being shipped back to Australia, gassed and wounded, he was given permission to hold a special Requiem Mass for the Battle Dead. After the service, he and some members of the congregation climed to the summit of Mt Clarence as this had been where the twonspeople had gathered in 1914 to watch the convey carry the men to Egypt.

Since then, thousands of young men had been either killed, maimed or were suffering the aftermath of trench warfare. As he looked out over the harbour he is reported to have said:

Albany was the last sight of land these ANZAC troops saw of Australia. Perhaps we should hold commemorate them this way every ANZAC Day.

While some reports claim White held his first dawn service as early as 1923, local Albany historian Joan Bartlett points to a more accurate date of the 25th April 1930. At the 1930 service, some parishioners accompanied him to lay a wreath at the local memorial, as well as following him up Mt Clarence to watch a wreath float out into King George Sound. He is believed to have said at the time:

As the sun rises and goeth down, we will remember them.

Following the service, he wrote in the church's register First Dawn Service held in Australia.

Keeping the Memory Alive

To promote the ANZAC tradition and keep the memory alive the State Government has given its support through the provision of a new Adopt-a-Memorial scheme, encouraging youth groups to care for local war memorials or honour rolls and a new grants scheme to help community organisations to restore local war memorials. The Premier has also announced plans to spend $445,000 to restore the water damaged State War Memorial in Kings Park.

The information in this document has been sourced from the following websites and information provided by historian Mrs Joan Bartlett. For further details about the ANZAC tradition these website contain excellent information:


Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.