Surely, there must be some mistake: a procession through Woodbridge, led by the colourful standards of the Royal British Legion; mayors in their scarlet robes and gold chains of office; people wearing red poppies and sprigs of rosemary – the symbol of remembrance; the Parish Church of St. Mary’s packed to capacity with many folk standing at the back; teenagers flocking through the ancient doors to attend a Church service. And all of this on the fine, warm Sunday afternoon of 27th April.
What was going on? St. Mary’s was honoured to be hosting the annual Anzac Day commemorations, with guests from all over Suffolk and beyond.
During the First World War, in 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill, to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The Allied force landed at Gallipoli on 25th April, where they met fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. The campaign dragged on for eight months, during which time both sides suffered heavy casualties. Over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the soldiers being known as Anzacs. April 25th is Anzac day when Australia and New Zealand, together with Britain and the allies, honour those Anzacs who gave their lives.
At St. Mary’s, representatives from the Australia and New Zealand High Commissions and the Turkish Embassy took their places alongside the High Sheriff of Suffolk and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk. The many standard bearers filled the side aisles as the Union Standard was laid on the altar.
Why remember an historical event whose participants are no longer with us? The preacher, the Rt. Revd. Clive Young, Bishop of Dunwich, used Winston Churchill as the theme of his address. He reminded us that war and conflict cause death and suffering to all involved, including the ‘enemy’. And in our modern world, we still witness the folly of war in so many places, where good young men are killed by other good young men.
Wonderful music from the organ led the gifted choir through beautiful singing and the congregation through powerful hymns, including ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory’ and ‘Love divine’. The Last Post and Reveille set the tone for those famous words of the Exhortation, read by the President of the Woodbridge Royal British Legion: "They shall grow not old, as we who 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."
Following the service, the Britain-Australia Society and the Woodbridge Royal British Legion served tea at the Community Centre, including Anzac biscuits. Made with rolled oats, coconut and golden syrup, these biscuits closely resemble those eaten by the Anzacs in the trenches.
Those who were privileged to be in St. Mary’s on that special afternoon will have much to remember, not least our gratitude for the peace and security of our own lives and for the freedom of our country.
Chaos, carnage, cruelty, catastrophe, are words of war.
Compassion, commitment, calmness, camaraderie, are words of peace.
Each of us has a choice. Which four Cs you and I choose can make a huge difference.
Their sacrifice must not be in vain.
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