ANZAC Day in Albany

I am in Albany WA visiting my 92 year old mother but as ANZAC Day coincides with my visit I am also here to attend Dawn Service at the home of my fathers. My Great Grandfather, born in 1844 to a British soldier and wife serving in what was then Van Dieman’s Land, brought the family here in the 1890s. Three of his sons went to the Boer War with two serving in the Permanent Coastal Artillery Battery in the Forts overlooking the town. One of these, Sydney Frederick Gillett, was my paternal Grandfather. These forts were developed earlier in the 1800s to counter French and Russian threats to the British Empire. French presence in those earlier days of settlement lives on in all the French named geographical points around the South West Coast of WA. Don’t know what happened to the Russians – most probably had a revolution on board and forgot to leave any names on the map. In 1959 I also attended the Forts at Albany. The West Australian Education dept hadn’t caught up with us pure Baby Boomers, those of us born in 1946, so all 1st Year High School kids of that year attended school in pubic buildings around town. Some went to churches, some to halls and some to the Forts. My first year lessons at high school were conducted under the watchful eyes of Grandfather and Great Uncle as they stared down from old military photos hanging in the Military Institute Hall. In 1939 my father enlisted in the RANR and often came through his home port as he went to and fro to Asia and back protecting troop ships and convoys whilst a sailor on board HMAS Sydney and later, on board Mine Sweepers. The first Dawn Service anywhere was conducted in Albany WA.
Where and when did the custom of Dawn Service begin? Reverend White was serving as one of the padres of the earliest ANZAC’s to leave Australia with the First AIF in November 1914. The convoy was assembled in the Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound at Albany WA, my homeport. Before embarkation, at four in the morning, he conducted a service for all the men of the battalion. When White returned to Australia in 1919, he was appointed relieving Rector of the St John’s Church in Albany. It was a strange coincidence that the starting point of the AIF convoys should now become his parish. No doubt it must have been the memory of his first Dawn Service those many years earlier and his experiences overseas, combined with the awesome cost of lives and injuries, which inspired him to honour permanently the valiant men (both living and the dead) who had joined the fight for the allied cause. “Albany”, he is later quoted to have said, “was the last sight of land these ANZAC troops saw when leaving Australian shores and some of them never returned. We should hold a service (here) at the first light of dawn each ANZAC Day to commemorate them.” Thus on ANZAC Day 1923, 87 years ago this morning, he came to hold the first Commemorative Dawn Service. extract from an address I gave at last years ANZAC Day service in Brisbane
Over all my years I have never attended a Dawn Service here at my home port. Tomorrow that will be addressed. I wish all veterans and all those who support us, a meaningful ANZAC Day and if you end up fighting battles again do it better and don’t make the same mistakes twice. I remember all the friends of my fathers and myself whose souls we left on foreign shores – may they all rest in peace and may their widows and family be consoled by the value of their sacrifice.


  • have a good day Kev, and to all Porkies Pigs wherever you are we all march together in spirit…

  • It seems appropriate that the first, unoffical, Dawn Service for ANZAC was held at Albany.

    As the troops departing Australia for the war left they passed through King George Sound and their last sight of Australia was Mount Clarence, site of the Desert Mounted Courps memorial. A beautiful statue which I love.

    Kev, thanks for all you’ve done and for what you do now to help your colleagues!

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