This morning we were privileged to attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Katherine, Northern Territory.
We are travelling on The Ghan’s special ANZAC tribute train, from Darwin to Adelaide. At 5am a gentle knock on our door announced the morning cup of tea delivered by The Ghan head of hospitality, Sonia who said she was sleepwalking! The tea did the trick, so eyes were wide open 30 minutes later as we arrived at the Katherine war memorial in the town park. In the dark hundreds of local people had gathered to pay respects and place wreaths in honour of the fallen, from many different arenas of war. Travelling with us is Brian Winspear, a veteran who was a wireless air gunner who fought during the bombing of Darwin. Now aged 91 he is funny, articulate and totally inspiring.
After the service most of those present made their way to the local RSL where a gunfire breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and tomatoes was served to more than 300 people. Then it was out to the back bar to enjoy the music of John Schumann, Hugh McDonald (formerly of Redgum) and Alex Black, who now form The Vagabond Crew. Enjoy is perhaps not quite the right word – as many of the songs were poignant reminders of the futility of war, and the damage to innocent young people who get caught up in it, either as recruits or conscripts.
When Schumann sang his signature number, I was only 19, he was reinforcing the common age inscribed on many tombstones that we saw in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
It is a great privilege to be on this train and see and hear the stories of the courage that ordinary Australians displayed so that we might live in a free society.
It’s also a timely warning we must not waste the opportunity they have given us.
Tags: ANZAC day in Katherine
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