South Australians at War
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Commemoration and Creative Responses : Commemoration : ANZAC Day

Today the most significant of Australia's ceremonies is ANZAC Day. The first South Australian ANZAC Day commemoration service was on 25 April 1916. The Governor, Premier and Leader of the Opposition addressed a public assembly in Victoria Square, Adelaide, where a prominent position was given to soldiers who had been at the Gallipoli landing.

The commemoration was organised by the State War Council, comprising the Premier, six other members of parliament, the Mayor of Adelaide, and seven others. It produced an Anzac Souvenir as 'an Official Record of the Celebrations held in Adelaide on Tuesday, April 25th, 1916, to Commemorate the Landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on Gallipoli Peninsula on Sunday, April 25th, 1915.' This booklet has photos of the Gallipoli campaign, including one of the legendary Simpson, with his donkey assisting a wounded comrade, together with the text of speeches of the dignitaries. In the Governor's address at the official ceremony in Victoria Square, as recorded in the souvenir, he said,

When we think of those splendid men who performed the supreme sacrifice for love of country, our hearts go out in respect.

The ceremony ended with a minute of silence followed by the sounding of factory sirens, the singing of the national anthem and the march through the city by the first returned soldiers.

The following year the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial of League of Australia (RSL) took the responsibility for the South Australian ANZAC Day celebrations, and has continued to do so. The RSL urged the state government to declare 25 April a public holiday, and from the 1920s ANZAC Day became a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians lost in the First World War. Reference was usually made to those who had served in the South African War and they were also invited to march.

The RSL was, of course, open to veterans from the Second World War, and that greatly increased the numbers marching. Some veterans of more recent conflicts have felt that ANZAC Day, and other commemoration services, have focussed on the contributions of veterans of the two world wars. Gerry Harrison and Betty Lawrence discuss their feelings, as veterans of 'forgotten wars' in interviews commissioned by the State Library. Gerry observed, 'I attend all the dedication services and everything else, and we're sick and tired of not hearing about the Korean veteran - it's always Vietnam but never the Korea, Malaya or Borneo vets.' Gerry has been active in the Korean and South-East Asian Force Association, which holds its own annual commemorative service.

The numbers and composition of those participating has changed substantially, but the ANZAC Day ritual remains constant. The veterans' day begins with the dawn vigil, to recall the dawn landing at Gallipoli, and a minute's silence observed for the remembrance of the fallen. ANZAC services generally include the laying of wreaths, the playing of the last post (the bugle call marking the end of a soldier's day) and the recitation of the lines from Lawrence Binyon's poem, The Ode,

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.

The ceremony concludes with the playing of the Reveille (the bugle call used to wake soldiers from their sleep). The dawn service is followed by the parade with the veterans marching in the groups with whom they were associated in war.

Public attendance at ANZAC Day marches and services has fluctuated. The numbers dwindled in the 1960s, and during the Vietnam War some South Australians used the day as an occasion for anti-war protests. Over the past decade there has been a revival of interest in the day. This has been associated with a more liberal view as to who may march. The wives and mothers of soldiers who had served in conflicts, and recognised ex-servicewomen's groups, such as nurses, were always an important component of the first ANZAC Day marches in Adelaide. But it has only been since the 1980s that the auxiliary groups, such as the Australian Women's Land Army, have received recognition and been permitted by the RSL to march. South Australia, in the early 1990s, allowed other relatives to march and invited migrants who had served with Allied forces to march in their ethnic groups.

A crowd at a ceremony at the Soldiers Memorial, Mannum
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ANZAC Day
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Anzac Day Celebrations
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Anzac Day ceremony, Adelaide
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Anzac Day crowds at Anzac Arch, Adelaide
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ANZAC Day March
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Anzac Day Parade
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ANZAC Day Procession
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Anzac Day Procession
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ANZAC Day Procession
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ANZAC Day Procession
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Anzac Day service at the Soldiers Memorial in Penningto
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