AS the city slept around them, thousands stood in the first light of yesterday’s dawn to commemorate the sacrifice of Australia’s servicemen and women, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The growing popularity of the Sturt Street dawn service was evident for all to see as the large crowd braved single-digit temperatures and blustery winds to remember the heroic actions of the many who helped a young nation forge its identity.
Ninety-seven years after the assault on the Gallipoli coastline gave birth to the Anzac legend, a silent Catafalque Party stood guard as veterans, community leaders and many young people gave thanks for the freedom preserved by Australian heroism.
Click here to view photos from yesterday’s event
The Anzac Requiem and the Last Post echoed around the city centre, before those gathered observed a minute’s silence for Australia’s fallen soldiers.
As the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom flags fluttered at half mast, master of ceremonies Patrick Mitchell said the events at Anzac Cove had earned “one of the immortal names of history”.
He said the day stood for sacrifice and comradeship, reckless valour and, above all, endurance which would never admit defeat.
Ballarat arts administrator Peter Freund said the ceremony’s origins dated back to the war’s wake, and now stood as one of the most respected Australian traditions.
“Ken Inglis, an Australian author and historian, writes of how the idea of commemorating the dawn of 1915 came to a group of veterans in Sydney in 1927,” he said.
“Five men returning from an Anzac Day function in the early hours of the morning came across an old lady placing a sheaf of flowers on an incomplete cenotaph. The men bowed their heads and their association resolved to arrange a dawn service at the cenotaph,” he said.
“The following year 150 people gathered at dawn to lay wreaths and observe two minutes’ silence.”
As the sun rose, attendees found white crosses which bore the names of Ballarat’s men and boys who gave their lives in overseas conflicts.
Hundreds walked to the traditional Gunfire Breakfast at the newly opened home of the Ballarat RSL sub-branch at the historic George Hotel.
Volunteers from the city’s Rotary Clubs prepared eggs, bacon and sausages while veterans, their families and the beneficiaries of their success in preserving the Australian way of life shared conversation and inspected the new facilities.
Later, hundreds marched down Sturt Street wearing their own war medals or those of past generations to the applause of those gathered to watch.
City of Ballarat mayor Cr Mark Harris later told the commemorative service that the city’s commitment to the Anzac spirit lived on.
Joined by RSL sub-branch president Alex Tascas and Ballarat MP Catherine King, Cr Harris thanked Major Kaylene Baird for her Anzac Day address.
The poignant words of the Ode of Remembrance were in the air in Ballarat yesterday.
“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”.