Last Post And Chorus

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YOU CAN STILL HEAR THE SOUND OF SOLDIERS MARCHING

The railway station is quiet now. Empty. Lonely.
But it wasn’t always like that.
In the spring of 1914 thousands of men and hundreds of horses gathered there from all points of the country.
They marched down to the jetty, to join those on the ships already anchored in the harbour, ready for their grand adventure.
Their journey across the seas to fight for king and country against the oppressor.
These young, free-spirited men from a sparse continent on the other side of the world.
A nation barely a dozen years and one since its federation. One that based its values on an egalitarian society.
Oppression was the enemy. Just as it was the rallying call of the miners on the gold fields of Ballarat in 1854 when they stood up against the colonial authority of the United Kingdom at the Eureka Stockade.
And now they were going off to war under the Union Jack and Australia’s Red Ensign.
The Australians and New Zealanders responded to the clarion call of the British Empire.
It was Europe’s war but these young men and a handful of women serving as nurses of this newly-formed federation of states answered the call with “Australia will be there.”
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“The ships arrived in Albany in ones and twos and threes, till at last the fleet was gathered. There they swung at anchor for five clear days while water and coal were taken in the vessels that required them.
Each day there was a report that we were about to sail on the following day, but day after day passed, and no move was made by any of the ships. At last on Saturday, October 31, word passed round in the mysterious way in which word does pass round at sea that the transports would leave next morning.
All hands turned in with serene hope that this at last was the real signal to move.” A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson.

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The first and second convoys carried the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Twenty six Australian and 10 New Zealand transport ships assembled in King George Sound and departed on November 1, 1914, escorted by three warships.
The second convoy of 15 Australian and three New Zealand ships departed unescorted on December 31, 1914.
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Today, you can stand on the headlands of Albany and look across the waters of King George Sound, the site where 30,000 Anzac soldiers and horses were gathered aboard a fleet of 40 ships before setting sail for Gallipoli in World War One.
Just as they had gathered at this magnificent harbour in the south of Western Australia before heading off to the Boer War in 1899. Just as they would again for World War Two.
If someone said spend a day at the ANZAC Centre, you would wonder why … why spend a day at a war memorial and museum.
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But you can … it’s like a walk through time and history.
Everywhere you look it’s a reference to someone’s life.
Designed to feed people’s curiosity.
Stand up there on the top of the hill and virtually picture the scene … the departing ships.
You can do that at sea level as well, at the replica jetty on the edge of Princess Royal Harbour, next to the ANZAC Peace Park.
A reclaimed area between the railway station and the replica jetty where they departed from.
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Here on the waterfront at the bottom of York Street … solemn, sad.
It makes you think at how fortunate we were to have such a memorial. To be standing there … not just a monument to the Anzacs but a reminder of the tragic cost of war.
Among the men and women who gathered in Albany before departing to serve in World War One were the troops who landed at Gallipoli, including the Light Horsemen who fought on the battlefields of the Middle East — and who entered Jerusalem and captured Damascus.
Soldiers also fought in France and Belgium as part of the eight-month campaign.
The Anzac Peace Park was officially opened in 2010 and pays tribute to the Australians who served in WW1, and all those who have served the nation in conflicts and peacekeeping missions since.
“Then there is a stir at the stern, a gliding, oily rush of water which tells us that the screw is turning at last.
Now is seen a very pretty evolution as the leader draws out past the lighthouse and turns sharply to the west, rising to the lift of the open sea, and as each big vessel clears the gateway of the harbour she, too, swings round to dip her head into the waves with a sort of enjoyment at being once more on the trail.
Suddenly, we too realise that we are under way. So silently does the anchor come in, so smoothly do the turbine engines work, that only sailors on board know that we are moving, till the rocky headlands glide past us and we pass the waiting ships of our own fleet.
It is the most wonderful sight than An Australian ever saw.” A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson.
As well as the Pier of Remembrance, the park features an Interpretive Walk and the Lone Pine Grove.
It is the venue for Albany’s ANZAC Day Service and Parade each year. And it was in Albany that the Anzac Day Parade originated.
Each departing ship is represented by an engraved panel on the Pier of Remembrance as well as the HMAS AE2 submarine plaque which sits at the end of the Pier.
The AE2 was one of two submarines commissioned for the fledgling navy and she joined the second convoy of AIF troops in King George’s Sound at Albany on December 31, 1914, going on to serve in the Dardanelles.

The Lone Pine Grove provides a major focus for the theme of peace within the park.

The memorial was planted in 1974 to commemorate the departure of the first contingent of troops 60 years earlier.
It expresses a direct and living connection between Gallipoli and Albany, and the idea of peace across time, place and people.
The Battle of Lone Pine was between Australian and Turkish forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the ridge provided a vital position.
When Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, they saw a stunted pine grove growing on the commanding position of 400 Plateau.
It was held by the Australians until December 1915 when Allied troops were evacuated from the peninsula.
Two Australian soldiers souvenired pine cones from the Lone Pine Ridge in 1915 and from them seedlings were propagated.
The pier is a slender stretch of boardwalk, which gently curves into Princess Royal Harbour and offers visitors an opportunity to move beyond the edge of the bay that bounds the park, and over the water.
It provides a site for respite and reflection of those lost in the war.
The memory of those who never again trod these shores, who never again smelt the scent of gum trees in the morning.
The National ANZAC Centre on Mount Clarence takes two-three hours to go through, or spend the day.
You can explore the outside including great views of the ocean where the troops left Australia for the last time.
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The old gun emplacements and ammunition storage areas are dug into the hill.
Walking tracks lead up to the peak of Mount Clarence and from here you can look over the whole city, including Anzac Peace Park.

The Garrison bar restaurant beside the ANZAC Centre also gives a great vantage point of King George Sound in comfortable surrounds.

Perhaps the most touching monument is that to The Desert Mounted Corps that was so gallant in the Middle East.
That and the Padre White Lookout, a memorial to the man who is regarded as the instigator of the Anzac Day service.
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The 10th Light Horse Regiment was the only regiment of mounted infantry recruited in Western Australia during World War One.
It formed part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and served at Gallipoli as infantry in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
The regiment participated in the disastrous charge at the Nek on August 7, 1915, and their courageous actions were immortalised in the Peter Weir movie Gallipoli.
After Gallipoli the regiment served in the Middle East as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division and later the Australian Mounted Division.
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The 10th Light Horse Regiment was largely supplied by the Waler breed of horse that originated in New South Wales, hence the name.
It possessed amazing courage and endurance in harsh desert conditions, remaining alert and dependable even when short on rations.

The light horse combined the mobility of cavalry with the fighting skills of infantry. They fought dismounted, with rifles and bayonets. However, sometimes they charged on horseback, notably at Magdhaba and Beersheba.

On October 31, 1917, the Australian Light Horse bravely charged head-on into the machine guns to take Beersheba. Never would history see such a full-scale charge again.

Horses usually need to drink about 30 litres of water a day. However, during the campaign they often went for up to 60 hours without water, while carrying a load of almost 130 kilograms, comprising rider, saddle, equipment, food, and water.

At the end of the First World War Australians had 13,000 surplus horses which could not be returned home for quarantine reasons. Of these, 11,000 were sold, the majority as remounts for the British Army in India.

Of all the Walers that served in World War One only one made it back.
Sandy was one of Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges’ mounts.
The gelding accompanied Bridges to Gallipoli but was not landed. After Bridges was killed by a sniper, Sandy remained in Egypt until transferred to France in 1916.
At the request of the Australian Government, Sandy returned to Melbourne in 1918 and was turned out to graze.
Similarly, only one New Zealand horse that had served in the Middle East returned home. That was a mare named Bess.
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From 1916 to 1918, Padre White served as an army chaplain with the 44th Battalion and, upon his return to Australia, delivered sermons in remembrance of locals who died in the First World War.
Having served as an army chaplain from 1916-18, he led parishioners from St John’s Church to the summit of Mount Clarence at dawn on April 25, 1932 – the site where he along with so many others gathered to watch the convoys depart in 1914.
He also arranged a wreath to be cast into the sea to coincide with the ceremony.
Today the Padre White Lookout is the region’s most visited lookout and serves as an enduring place of reflection: A lasting monument to Ernest White and Australia’s first dawn service.

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It’s so poignant to stand here at dawn or at the setting of the sun and reflect on those who have gone before.

“The order to line up on the beach was forgotten. We all ran for our lives over the strip of the beach and got into the scrub and bush. Men were falling all around me.
We were stumbling over bodies – running blind.” Albert Facey, 11th Battalion, from his book A Fortunate Life.

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https://www.fieldoflightalbany.com.au/

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3 comments

  • Brilliantly written Erle. This captures the poignancy of the moment these men left Australia for the unknown. The loss of so many lives at this stage of our history is still felt today.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks Greg … you are right … just to stand there among the trees and the wildflowers, just to feel the breeze on your face and to look out to sea and wonder … wonder what it was like. What they had to go through …

    Like

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