Tuesday 25 April 2006
ANZAC DAY 1100am Ceremony


I spoke at the Dawn Service a few hours ago on this 91st Anzac Day of a little-known piece of Anzac history.

I did not know until I made a visit to Albany in Western Australia last year that the first Anzac Dawn service did not take place until 15 years after April 25, 1915 when at dawn the wooden boats full of our young men beached at Anzac Cove to meet devastating fire.

The first Anzac Dawn Service was held---fittingly at Albany in Western Australia which was the assembly point in October 1914 for a troop convoy which carried 30,000 Australian and New Zealand troops to the first World War.

The first Anzac dawn service was the idea of a remarkable man, Padre Arthur White. He was army chaplain to the AIF 44th Infantry Battalion in the trenches of France.

After the war, soon after being appointed Rector of Albany in 1929, Father White announced his intention to say a Requiem for the War Dead at six o’clock on the morning of Anzac Day, 1930. After the Requiem, he and the choir and congregation moved in procession to the nearby Albany War Memorial for a simple wreath-laying ceremony.

In later years, Father White would lead a pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Clarence where, after a silence, he said aloud:

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

At the same time, a boatman cast a wreath into King George Sound.

Mount Clarence was a fitting location as it was the last glimpse of Australia for many of those 30,000 Australian and New Zealand troops who left Albany for Egypt and Gallipoli in 1914.

When Father White died in Queensland in the 1950’s, at his request, his grave was simply identified with a white cross, with the words: “A Priest”.

There are two memorials for Padre White in Albany;

There is the Padre White Building at Princess Royal Fortress on Mount Clarence, while a second—lesser-known monument—has been set up in St John’s Anglican Church in York Street.

It comprises Padre White’s work desk, his priestly robes and a collapsible alter he used during communion services on the battlefields of Europe, no matter what chaos was happening all around him.

In a way we also remember Padre White when we assemble to mark Anzac Day at Dawn every year.

Padre White as he was known to his soldiers in the battlefields of France was one of the best known and respected Australian chaplains serving in the First World War.

He would accompany our soldiers “over the top” into no man’s land, administering to the wounded and dying, often under heavy machinegun and artillery fire.

Behind the lines, he was noted for the beautiful little chapels he always managed to improvise among the devastation of northern France.

It is possible that if it were not for the idea of Padre White at Albany in 1930, we would not have a dawn service on April the 25th every year.

His words on that early morning and subsequent Dawn Services:

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

This was his version of those words from the fourth verse of the Ode to the Fallen, by
OL Binyon.

However many times were hear them they still stir our hearts to sadness, and I will end by repeating them:

“ They shall not grow 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.”