The 1st November 1914 marks the day where 40,000 Australian and New Zealand troops set sail for the Western Front and Gallipoli. A third never returned and many of those that did never recovered. This weekend Albany commemorates the ANZAC Centenary with the opening of the National ANZAC Centre with events all over the region. Come and pay homage to these brave souls who helped shape Australia and explore the region in Great Southern Land as published in Horizons Magazine August/September 2014
As I stand on Mt Adelaide overlooking Albany’s King George Sound the brisk breeze whips around me. I try to picture the scenario almost a hundred years ago where 40,000 men and 17,000 horses set sail from this very spot. They sailed in two convoys on 54 ships which carried up to four times as many men than what they were designed to transport. As you can imagine conditions were gruelling; hammocks were slung over mess tables and ablution cubicles were erected on deck alongside the horse stalls. Many had never been at sea before and some never even survived the trip as they suffered through chronic sea-sickness, influenza, pneumonia, measles and meningitis only to meet their fate on the Western Front and Gallipoli. One third never returned, and many of those that did come home, experienced long-term trauma.
It may have been a hundred years ago since we said goodbye to thousands of brave souls, but their sacrifice is never forgotten; especially in Albany. The National ANZAC Centre on Mt Adelaide opens 1st November 2014 to coincide with the departure of the troops. Visitors to the museum can travel alongside the troops to Egypt, Gallipoli and the Western Front while interacting with touch-points, digital displays and a live web interface.
As well as the opening of the National ANZAC Centre, celebrations to commemorate the ANZAC centenary include ANZAC Projections and Storytelling, Royal Australian Navy Ceremonial Sunset, Princess Royal Harbour Lights, Troop March, Commemorative Service, Community Concert and Naval Ship Open Day. Download the ANZAC Albany Smart Phone App for information on events, locations, historic information, maps and eating options including the Stirling Terrace Mess Hall. How exciting for Albany to play such an important role in Australia’s history.
Other events will be held around the state like the Nannup Historical Society, Fremantle Maritime Museum and the Blackboy Hill to Fremantle pilgrimage.
One of the most touching sentiments is presented by the Perth Theatre Trust and Agelink Theatre. For just 5 performances from 11th to 15th November, Cis and Barbiche is a moving tribute to Remembrance Week. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with writer Jenny Davis about the production which is based on the love letters between French bomber, Francis and an English lady called Barbara. During such a time of turmoil, the play follows their romance and gets to the heart of war. I asked Jenny about her thoughts on war and her response was refreshing: “War is different now than what it was back then. Now we know what to expect although it’s a different war. Communication is everything and now we have skype, email and daily communication. Back then the letters were handwritten and someone took the time to handwrite and be thoughtful with the words chosen. There’s obviously still fear of course with families waiting at home for news. My aunt spent four years writing letters that were never read but that was her way of unloading. War can also be very exciting as you get to meet lots of interesting people and foreigners. It’s glamourous with the uniforms and everyone’s young; it can be terribly romantic. And you have to do your job well. But after the war everything goes grey.”
There are thousands of heartbreaking stories like the Lighthouse Girl written by Albany author Dianne Wolfer. Fay lives on windswept Breaksea Island in a lighthouse and with only her journal to confide in, her solitary life changes dramatically when war is declared in 1914. Young Fay becomes a lifeline for the homesick soldiers desperate to send telegrams to their loved ones. A touching tribute to our troops, The Lighthouse Girl is beautifully illustrated and available in Albany and selected bookstores.
Of course ANZAC has always drawn international attention, and even more so now at the Perth International Arts Festival (13 February – 7 March 2015) with the commissioning of the Little Giant Girl. Designed by French company Royal de Luxe, the six-metre high character will explore the city looking for The Diver; telling a story of reunion, nation building and community participation. The event will traverse for three days at the opening festival weekend and is a fitting tribute to WA’s role in WWI and Gallipoli.
WASO (Western Australian Symphony Orchestra) will honour the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings with a commemorative concert on 23rd April 2015 with poignant music including Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Historical exhibits will also be displayed in the foyer of the Perth Concert Hall.