A typical ANZAC Day starts in many Australian communities with a Dawn Service, usually commencing at about 5-45am. The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine, which is still observed by the Australian Army today.
The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldier’s eyes and from the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons. This was, and still is, known as “Stand-To“. It was also repeated at sunset.
After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn Stand-To or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s; the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were generally restricted to veterans only.
The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers, the dawn service was for old soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond. Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes of silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the “Last Post” and then concluded the service with “Reveille“.
In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.
The ANZAC Day Dawn Service conducted by the Morwell RSL commences at 5-45am at the Morwell Cenotaph, on the corner of Tarwin and Elgin Streets, (Outside the Morwell RSL Clubrooms).
RSL Members and the General Public are also invited to a “Gunfire” breakfast in the RSL clubrooms after the Service and entry is with a gold coin donation.