COVID-19 adds new dimension to Anzac Day


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Bryan John Smith and Wally Gray from the Mossman RSL Sub Branch. Image: Karlie Brady.

Anzac Day 2020 will be like no other. COVID-19 has made sure of that.

On Saturday, April 25, the Dawn Services will not happen; the opportunity to honour the fallen; to commemorate the many battles won and lost; and the chance to share and re-live many memories will be missing this year.

Instead, across the country, Australians will be standing mostly alone and honouring the occasion. It could be at their front door, or their driveway, or at a spot they deem appropriate.

It will be a far cry from how Anzac Day is normally held.

Some ways Anzac Day is traditionally commemorated, all of which will be sorely missed this year:  

Dawn Service. The Dawn Service is one of the most revered and popular ceremonies that takes place on Anzac Day.

The Last Post. Often heard at the Dawn Service and other memorials on Anzac Day, The Last Post is the tune that is played over a bugle to signify the end of the day, or the final post.

Marches, Memorials, and Exhibits. Throughout the day, many towns host marches that feature veterans and members of The Returned & Services League.

Red Poppies. The lines that follow in Canadian Colonel John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field,” mention, “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.” Red poppies were the first flowers to bloom on the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium despite the bloodshed in the First World War.

Anzac Day Football. Although football had been played on Anzac Day for a number of years, the match between Collingwood and Essendon did not become a standard recurrence until 1995.

Catafalque parties. A catafalque is a raised structure that holds a coffin. At a funeral as a sign of respect, four soldiers would stand about a meter away from the catafalque, facing in four different directions, with their heads lowered and weapons held at reverse.

Anzac Biscuits. These treats had a very practical beginning. During the First World War, the friends and families of soldiers would send care packages overseas.

But Wally Gray, Mossman RSL Sub Branch Secretary, said all is not lost.

“The Mossman RSL along with RSL Queensland is calling on Australians to honour the service of our Defence forces, past and present, by standing at the end of their driveways for a minute's silence at 6:00am this Anzac Day," he said.

You can join in RSL Queensland's Light Up the Dawn commemorative service, which includes the Ode and the Last Post, by streaming it while on your driveway.

“If the general public would like to lay wreaths at Port Douglas, Mossman and Cow Bay cenotaphs throughout the day they are welcome to do so but please only in family groups, not en masse,” Mr Gray said.

Mossman RSL is also recommending that Douglas Shire residents tune into the national dawn service on television or radio.

Anzac Day 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".

Observed on April 25 each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918). 

This year, Anzac Day falls on a Saturday and therefore will not be commemorated by a long weekend.

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