At approximately six thirty this morning I sang my national anthem for the first time in twenty years.
For someone who lives in an adopted country where exists, at best, friendly rivalry between this country and mine, and, at worse, outright enmity, this is quite notable. Yet today Australians and New Zealanders all over the globe will gather together to commemorate one hundred years since ANZAC troops landed on the beach at Gallipoli and to honour those that have served in our defence forces since then.
Such services are held at dawn (I'd say pre-dawn: it was still pretty dark at 5.20am!), and often include The Last Post, the laying of wreaths, a recitation, the playing of the Reveille, and the national anthem. Today's service also included, along with the above, prayers for peace, singing "Abide with Me", a gun salute, a flyover (it was dark and we could only see their lights but we heard them), the moving song "Sons of Gallipoli" (listen to it below), and the singing of "God Save the Queen", and the national anthems of both Australia and New Zealand.
I was struck by the obvious Christian roots that were still inherent in a ceremony that began almost one hundred years ago. There were possibly many in the crowd who dismissed or even felt uncomfortable with the prayers and songs, but as a Christian I found it quite moving. This is what was at the foundation of this country all those years ago but has been sadly lost.
I was also stirred by the speech of a young girl whose ancestors fought on both sides of the Great War. She commented that she is a beneficiary of the peace that was established between our countries after the world wars - as is my husband's family (I have a beautiful Japanese sister-in-law).
But that price came at great cost and it's something we should never forget.
They shall grow not old, as we that 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.
(Robert Laurence Binyon)