Sprigs of rosemary

The Traditions of ANZAC Day

Anita Jaensch 12 April 2019

ANZAC Day services are rich in military protocol and tradition. But do you know what these traditions mean and how they came about?

A sprig of rosemary

Rosemary has been associated with remembrance since ancient times, but its particular significance to ANZAC Day dates back to World War I. Native to the seaside regions of the Mediterranean, rosemary grows wild on the slopes of the Gallipoli Peninsula. 

Sprig of rosemary

Tradition has it that a wounded Digger brought home a small rosemary bush from ANZAC Cove, which was planted in the grounds of the Army Hospital at Keswick, South Australia. Cuttings from this original plant were taken and propagated in nurseries all over Australia, and sprigs of rosemary are worn to this day by attendees at ANZAC Day ceremonies as a fragrant reminder of the fallen.

The catafalque party

At the beginning of an ANZAC Day service, four members of the Defence Force take up position around the cenotaph or shrine, standing with their heads bowed and arms (the weapons they are carrying) reversed. They remain there as a mark of respect for the fallen until the end of the service.

Catafalque party at Redcliffe ANZAC Day service

These four sentries are known as a catafalque party. A catafalque (pronounced cat-a-falk) is a raised platform on which a coffin rests before burial, but is represented at ANZAC ceremonies by the memorial.

The Last Post

There are few who can avoid a lump in their throat at haunting sound of a lone bugler sounding the Last Post.

The Last Post is traditionally the bugle call that signals the end of the working day, but it has been adopted in commemorative services to herald the service people who have gone to their final rest.

At Dawn Services, the minute’s silence is broken by the Reveille – traditionally, the first call of the day to wake sleeping soldiers.

The Ode of Remembrance

Less than two months after WWI was declared, with heavy casualties already being reported, English poet Laurence Binyon wrote For the Fallen.

Since 1921, the fourth stanza – known as The Ode – has become a central part of ANZAC ceremonies, encapsulating Australia’s collective sense of respect and loss for the service people who gave their lives during World War I, and in all conflicts since:

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.

Gunfire Breakfast

Your local RSL Sub Branch may host a Gunfire Breakfast following the Dawn Service, but do you know why?

Rather than artillery, ‘gunfire’ refers to the rum-laced coffee or tea that is served alongside the bacon and eggs, and harks back to the measure of liquid courage that was served up at the beginning of the day to help soldiers face the coming battle.

 
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Tags:
  • History & commemoration