Anzac Day: women leading marches across the nation for the first time ever
Veterans (from left) Sarah Cannon, Vikki Strickland, Jacinta Veitch and Michelle Coates led Gold Coast Anzac marches. (ABC News: Elise Kinsella)
For the first time, women have taken the lead at Anzac Day marches across the nation.
On the Gold Coast, veterans Sarah Cannon, Vikki Strickland, Jacinta Veitch and Michelle Coates helped lead marches at Southport and Tweed Heads.
Ms Cannon, co-ordinator of the Women Veterans Network on the Gold Coast, said this year’s march was about recognising all veterans and that Anzac Day could provide great support for all servicemen and women.
“In some respects, it is like coming home,” she said.
“The people you’re marching with, they don’t care the colour the uniform, they don’t care how long you served, they don’t care whether you deployed operationally or you stayed domestically within Australia or our allied nations — so the support just happens organically.”
A veteran waves to the crowd from a military jeep in the Brisbane march. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
Michelle Coates, who spent a decade in the Royal Australian Navy, said she when she served she felt like Anzac Day was just for older veterans.
A person dressed as a World War I soldier salutes the Brisbane Shrine of Remembrance in the Anzac Day march. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
“I was in a rural area and I think for a lot of the young ones we were in awe of the calibre of the veterans we were marching with and we wanted to support them because we felt it was their day,” she said.
“They were a lot older, they had been through a lot in their lives, lost a lot of friends and we felt our role was more of a support role. So to lead the march, it is a real honour.”
In Townsville, 98-year-old World War II veteran Arnold Forrester joined today’s Anzac march.
Mr Forrester was a company runner in the 39th Infantry Battalion that served in New Guinea, his image was captured in a famous photo on the Kokoda Track.
He said he vividly remembered the day their photo was taken on the track.
“It rained every day at three o’clock, three inches of rain. The mud was from your ankles to your knees,” he said.
World War II veteran Arnold Forrester (centre) marching in Townsville today. (ABC News: Tom Edwards)
Today, he reflected on those lost in battle.
“It’s a great remembrance of the 600 we lost — 640 dead, 340 wounded, out of 900,” Mr Forrester said.
Arnold Forrester (second from left) on the Kokoda Track with the 39th Infantry Battalion. (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)
“It does grieve me to think we could lose so many wonderful 18-year-old boys. It’s sad, but somebody had to do it, and unfortunately a good many paid the price. They laid their lives down that we could have this today.”
Earlier, thousands of people gathered at dawn services across Queensland to pay their respects to servicemen and women and mark the 103rd anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.
There was a strong turnout in Townsville, where Australian servicemen and women past and present were honoured.
In Brisbane, empty spots surrounding Anzac Square between Ann and Adelaide Streets started filling about 3:00am despite wet weather.
People line to lay wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance in Brisbane. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey paid special tribute to Queenslanders in his address.
“The men who came to know themselves as Anzacs fought with intensity and courage,” he said.
He also honoured families who had lost loved ones across the country.
An army band plays at the Dawn Service at Anzac Square in Brisbane’s CBD. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
“The widows and orphans of the war. The mothers and fathers who lost their sons, we acknowledge the holes torn in the fabric of the nation’s families — a loss that’s still felt today,” he said.
Rain doesn’t deter crowds
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joined the Governor and other dignitaries and laid wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance.
A man enjoys a beer after after the dawn service at Mooloolaba Beach on the Sunshine Coast. (ABC News: Jacqui Street)
Alexandra Apse was commemorating her grandfather’s service in the Royal Australian Navy and was happy to see such a big turnout.
“It’s touching to see especially the younger generations get out and remember, because it’s such an important thing to keep history alive and remember the sacrifices,” she said.
Scarlett Sullivan said the rain was not going to deter her from coming out and remembering her loved ones.
“It was a really good crowd even though it was raining it still went forward which was great,” she said.
10-year-old Kate Ward said it was an early wake up call for her but she wouldn’t miss it.
“I go every year, I like remembering everyone who went to war and fought and doing all the marching and stuff,” she said.
‘We were just lost’
At the Gold Coast’s Currumbin service 18 surf boats took part in this year’s burial at sea, during which the ashes of dead servicemen and women are scattered behind the surf break.
A serving soldier told the crowd that 33,000 Australians have served in Afghanistan and Iraq and many of them are dealing with trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder.
Vietnam veteran David Hamil said there was no support when he returned from Vietnam.
New Zealand performers at the Mooloolaba Beach dawn service performed a haka and a welcome song. (ABC News: Jacqui Street)
“We were just lost,” he said.
The veteran said it was fantastic there were programs is place to support returning soldiers.
There was fly pass at the service which included an Iroquois helicopter which was used during the Vietnam war.
“The hardest part for me today was when the chopper went over,” Mr Hamil said.
“It was our main transport in Vietnam, for carrying out wounded or taking us in or out of combat.”
The dawn service at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast focused on the role of women in the armed services as part of the By the Left campaign, which was established to highlight women’s military contributions.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s most senior female pilot Samantha Freeburn said she wore her medals with great pride.
“I am not only a pilot or Air Force officer, but I am a daughter, a sister a wife and a mum,” she said.
Crowds began to gather at Anzac Square in Brisbane from 3:30am this morning. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)