Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 5 - Anzac Day

What a day! We saw the sun rise and set.

This was my second dawn service. I guess because I don't have any family that were involved in the wars (I or II). Anzac day has been one of those things I have respected but not really been connected with. Until this year.

At the suggestion of Mrs Gazza's brother and his wife, who were at the end of their European trip, we agreed to meet them for the Anzac day service at Villers Bretonneux.

So it was set the alarm for 3:00am for catching a shuttle bus from the outskirts of Amiens at 4:00am. We were rigged for cold and glad of it.

We arrived at the memorial site at around 4:45am. The place was well flood lit, you could see that a lot of effort had been made.

It was the 95th anniversary of the battle the Aussies fought at Villers Bretonneux.

The service was moving and a great reminder that our young country's identity was truly forged on the battlefields of Europe. The ideals of mateship, a fair go, rolling our sleeves up and not taking ourselves too seriously were all things that shaped these young men and values they bought home (those who came home) 500,000 troops left our shores 2/3rds of them were injured or never returned. In a nation of only 5,000,000 people at the time that is very significant and no wonder it changed us. Anzac day is more than remembering the bravery of soldiers past. It's remembering our history, who we are and what our values are. These twenty somethings did more than play a part in saving Europe from a madman they shaped a young nation and remembering them is a way of remembering ourselves.

Pre-dawn the flood lit area and headstones set a sobering tone as we walk towards the memorial
Last minute preparations and an Anzac in full dress. The Chaplain's prayer linked the sacrifice of soldiers to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. In this way the crosses in the memorials take on even greater significance.

Wreaths were laid by many. Fittingly, apart from the official wreaths, the families of those who died here lay their's first.
This photo has a lot going on. We remembered the horror of war and the value of peace. It was good to be a part of. Lest we forget.

Yep Bob Carr again. C'mon Bob get in the car so our buses can come and pick us up. We're cold. Good speech though.

The rest of the day involved driving to Paris where Mrs Gazza's brother dropped us off at the train station so we could get to our hotel and they could get to the airport.

Now we were on our own (so to speak) having lost our more accomplished French speakers were left to work it out for ourselves.

The ticket machine was broken so we needed to hunt around for another one. That done we then had to find the right platform. Not that obvious at first but with the help of a kind local we got there.

The train was coming from Charles De Gaulle airport so we were not the only travellers, it was pretty full and quite hot. Some guy started yelling in french (not at us) but at other tourists because they were taking up seats with their bags. He was quite imposing and these obvious non-french speaking tourists were quite frightened by him. Now we were the minority and making us feel very unwelcome.

He got off after a few stops and everyone seemed relieved. We found our hotel (Hotel Diana) and a very helpful clerk who gave us all we needed to know, and more, when all we wanted was a bed.

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