A very different ANZAC Day – 25 April 2020

ANZAC Day is an important day for Australians and New Zealanders, wherever they are in the world. Today marks the landing at Gallipoli in 1915 and is recognised around the world as ANZAC Day – Australia New Zealand Army Corps.

I have written a post about the importance of ANZAC Day in past years but this year, in times of social distancing, it is a completely different event.

Like many others, we usually commemorate ANZAC Day on 25 April with dawn ceremonies, marches, laying of wreaths, special prayers and tributes, but due to COVID-19 we can’t do that this year.  

Instead we were encouraged to stand at dawn – on our verandahs, on balconies, at the end of our driveways – and reflect on what the day means.

And many people did that this morning, including us. We live out of town with no near neighbours so stood silently on the front verandah with a candle, while listening/watching the ABC TV coverage and watching the sunrise.

It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity

It was poignant and ‘different’.

Regardless of however we commemorate this day, we stop to thank those who have fought to save our country.

Although we can’t physically stand with our friends and neighbours we are with them in spirit.

ANZAC Biscuits

As I was up very early, I also took the opportunity to make a batch of ANZAC biscuits.

These biscuits came into our history during WW1.  As they are made with oats, flour, coconut, golden syrup, and no eggs are used, it gives them the ability to stay fresh for long periods of time. They were made by wives, mothers and girl friends and were packaged up to be sent off to ANZAC soldiers fighting overseas.

They are still a popular biscuit here  and everyone knows the story behind them. Some like them crunchy while others like them soft – they are easy to make and are delicious. Here’s the CWA recipe which I use.

**CWA of NSW Anzac Biscuit Recipe**

150g (1 cup) plain flour
220g (1 cup) sugar
100g (1 cup) rolled oats
90g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
125g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and lightly grease two baking trays. Combine the flour in a bowl with the sugar, rolled oats and coconut. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the golden syrup over medium heat. Combine the boiling water with the bicarbonate of soda and stir to dissolve. Add to the butter mixture and mix well,then stir into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the trays, allowing room for spreading.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

An Aussie tradition ANZAC biscuits
ANZAC biscuits

The relevance of poppies:

Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial

The Flanders poppy has long been a part of Remembrance Day, the ritual that marks the Armistice of 11 November 1918, and is also increasingly being used as part of Anzac Day observances. During the First World War, red poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. The sight of poppies on the battlefield at Ypres in 1915 moved Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the poem In Flanders fields. Source 

A KOKODA connection:

The Bomana War Cemetery, in Papua New Guinea, is the largest war cemetery in the Pacific with close to 4000 graves, mostly Australian, and is a very moving place to visit.  

I was lucky enough to walk the Kokoda Track in 2008 with my husband and others and we commemorated ANZAC Day in a very moving service at Isurava. At the end of our trek we visited the war cemetery.

2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign and the Battle of Milne Bay, which formed part of the New Guinea campaign in the Second World War.

at Isurava Memorial along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea
Isurava Memorial along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in 2008

Back in 2019,  my husband had just returned from his 8th trek over Kokoda with 8 leaders and 18 school students. They hold their own ANZAC Day service along the track and visit Bomana cemetery before leaving for home. It’s always a very moving time.

Each year, those of the group who are in town, regather and join many locals and returned soldiers in our little town of Tumbarumba, for the Dawn Service and the March later in the morning.  There’s always a buzz and the sharing of amazing experiences. But this year that couldn’t happen and it feels strange.

A family connection:

ANZAC Day always has an extra special meaning for our family as my grandfather died on this day back in 1991. He had served time in the British Army during WW2.

My very talented sister Sharon, wrote this story many years ago. I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing it again. It’s always on my mind on Anzac Day as we remember our grandfather.

A very special grandfather (Pop), Fred Humphries

Pop never marched on Anzac Day. He had no ‘digger’ mates to reminisce with. His was the Second World War and he was British. Anzac Day never had the relevance for him that it did for others, but he didn’t like to speak of the war much anyway. Pop’s war was over, not to be dragged out and fought every year.

Pop was in transport during the war and continued in that area afterward. He won some medals but always kept them locked away. Pop served in Italy for a time, but we never heard any war stories from him.

Pop came to Australia in the mid 50’s with his wife and three children. He found work and moved his family into a place of their own. He joined the RSL club and went there occasionally for a quiet drink and a game on the pokies, but Pop never marched on Anzac Day.

He watched his children grow and find Australian partners and start Australian families. How proud he was watching his Aussie grandchildren march, but Pop never marched on Anzac day.

Pop, always thin and towering over everyone else, his neatly trimmed moustache as British as his reserve, had a fine sense of humour. He loved a laugh with friends, but Pop never marched on Anzac Day.

Cancer invaded Pop’s body as surely as Germany invaded Poland, and for four years he fought – and lived a relatively normal life. He had his garden to keep him occupied, which he tended lovingly. He enjoyed visits from his children, grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He always welcomed his family into his heart and home. His medals stayed locked away – as securely as his memories and experiences of the war. Pop never marched on Anzac day.

Pop’s battle with cancer ended in his 74th year in 1991. Pop died, in peace, on Anzac Day.

Sharon Pittaway

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.

Lest we forget!

Deb x

PS: My daughter wrote a post about ANZAC Day too, she lives in the UK and always feels nostalgic on these special Aussie days – ANZAC Day & the Kokoda Track

Some of my other ANZAC Day posts:

ANZAC Day 2019

ANZAC Day 2018

ANZAC Day 2017

ANZAC Day 2016

ANZAC Day 2014

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16 Replies to “A very different ANZAC Day – 25 April 2020”

  1. What a beautiful story to remember your grandfather. We stood on our driveway for Anzac day yesterday too, I was pleased to see so many neighbours doing so as well. It sounded like someone was playing the last post as well, we had to turn off the ABC livestream we had on my laptop as we could hear it playing from somewhere, although didn’t look to be on our street, and it was just a little out of time from the stream. It was a strange way to celebrate, instead of going to the service as we usually do, and the boys were in bed (4 and 5 year old), they woke up quite late and were upset they missed it. I told them that hopefully they can go to the dawn service next year, if everything is back to normal then.

    Hope that you are having a lovely weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment Mica. Your day sounds lovely and I agree it was a very strange way to commemorate but I’m so pleased everyone got involved around the country like they did. Hopefully next year we can attend the dawn service next year, I’m sure numbers will be huge! Take care 🙂

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