Each year, the Australian Embassy and New Zealand Embassy in The Hague organise an ANZAC Day ceremony. I’ve attended several of these now, and they are always special:

The ceremony has additional meaning for me as both my parents served in the Australian navy (before I was born).  I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to observe this day with fellow Antipodeans in the Netherlands each year.  I came prepared with my traditional poppy and rosemary (from my garden, which happened to be in bloom).  The scent was beautiful and stayed with me all day.

The 25th April 2017 was a cold 5 degrees, with intermittent rain and hail.  With an 8am start, the sun did make an effort to join us at the Commonwealth War Graves section at the Westduin Cemetery, The Hague.

Each year, the increadibly beautiful haunting tones of a Karanga, by Ms Kylie Martin always gives me goosebumps.

I also enjoy seeing several of the same wonderfully charismatic faces each year of the service men and women in their smart uniforms.

Below is a Facebook Live Broadcast I shared.  When watching it back though, I realise you can’t hear very much, especially due to the rain on my umbrella.  Also a bit shaky as I had freezing fingers – but you at least get the idea of what it was like to be there.

The program follows a similar format each year, with a solemn ceremony of prayers, readings, hymns and the laying of wreaths.

A traditional “Ode of Remembrance” was read by Wing Commander Ruth Elsley of the Australian Defence Force:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

Readings were given by Lieutenant Commander Tony McCall from the New Zealand Defence Force, His Excellency Dr Brett Mason, Ambassador of Australia and Her Excellency Ms Janet Lowe, Ambassador of New Zealand and Ms Ozge Demirkurt Atahan, Counsellor of the Embassy of Turkey.

I always find hope each year in the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1934), which to me represent how it is possible for nations to go from being at war to acknowledging that essentially, we are all one:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehemets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…you, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.  After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well”

The national anthems of the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia were sung beautifully by Emma Brown and the ceremony was officiated by Reverend Paul Falke of the Church of Our Saviour.

Beautiful wreaths were laid at the memorial by representatives from a number of embassies and organisations including the OPCW, Kiwis in The Netherlands and The Australian and New Zealand Club.

The Last Post, this year with bugler Corporal 1st Class, Patrick van Leeuwen, Fanfare Corps National Reserve, is always a very special part of the ceremony, and is followed by 2 minutes silence.

After the respectful ceremony, the mood becomes lighter as we all enjoyed a delicious breakfast together.

There was even some Australian Bundaberg Rum to warm up after the cold outside!

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to a number of men and women in active service. I love that the spirit of ANZAC Day encompasses both remembering those who have lost their lives, but also recognises the talent, dedication and importance of those who serve in the military today.

You can view all of my images and short videos over at my Google Photos album:

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