The First Anzac Day - "A sob seemed to shake the community"

As we wait in the dark before the dawn service on Anzac Day, our thoughts turn to the Dardanelles, and the young men waiting to fight their first – and for some, their last – battle.

We remember the ANZACs, whose service and sacrifice we honour as a nation.

The Dawn Service, the minute’s silence and the Anzac Day Parade are as familiar to Australians as the rising sun.

But what of the first Anzac Day, when the terrible loss of 7,600 Australian lives during the Gallipoli campaign, was still fresh in hearts and minds?  

100 years ago, a public meeting was held in the Exhibition Hall in Brisbane to discuss the commemoration of what was already called “Anzac Day”.

Then Governor, Major the Honourable Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams, submitted the following motion:

“That the heroic conduct of our gallant Queensland troops during the present war, and especially on that ever-memorable occasion of the landing at Gallipoli on April 25 last, has earned for them undying fame, and deserves the fullest recognition by the people of this country, whose rights and liberties they have been bravely defending.”[1]

20131105 141132

Image: Signatures of the first ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee members, 1916. OMHA, ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee Records, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

A committee was formed to bring the motion to fruition. Premier T.J. Ryan became chairman and Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Canon D.J. Garland was appointed secretary.

Garland has been described as the “Architect of Anzac Day”, a Queenslander who helped shape the way Australia remembers. On the eve of our 100th Anzac Day (Friday 22nd April 2016), His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, unveiled a memorial in honour of Canon Garland at Kangaroo Point.

IMG 6289

Almost 100 years earlier, on 26th April 1916, the Brisbane Courier opened its report of the first Anzac Day with the reflection that “A sob seemed to shake the community yesterday.”

More than 6400 troops took part in an “imposing march of troops through the city, witnessed by immense crowds”. Governor Goold-Adams took the salute at the post office. Services of commemoration were held at churches. At 9 pm, the whole State paused for one minute's sacred silence.

Gold Adams

Similar commemorations were held on that first Anzac Day throughout Queensland, Australia and the world. 

At the Reception hosted at Government House in March this year to acknowledge a century of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, His Excellency said: “It has been the noble work of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee to shape our experience of the anniversary of that great and terrible day, through the Second World War, through other wars and conflicts, and through the passing of the World War One veterans and their wives.”

As Queenslanders observe the rituals shaped over a century by the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, we speak together with one voice: Lest We Forget.