Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Driveway Dawn Services – reclaiming remembrance

I usually pass Anzac Day quietly, as befits remembrance. I try to avoid the flag waving and the speeches and the politicians – difficult as that is during an election. However, the day touches on so many issues that affect the future of Australia, that it always makes me think about where we have come from and where we are going. Lest we forget – or be doomed to repeat.

As Anzac day comes to an end for another year, I was thrilled to see the way communities have been reclaiming what has increasingly become a huge remembrance industry, beloved by politicians – especially in the middle of an election. Driveway Dawn Services, a short-term response to the global pandemic, could easily have slipped into history, once the pandemic changed shape. Fortunately they seem to have become part of a continuing history, taking the heart of remembrance back to families, friends and communities, where it all began.

Family connections
Anzac Day always makes me remember my five uncles, who all went to war to fight for a democratic way of life they believed in. They all served in World War 2 – on convoys to Russia, aboard motor torpedo boats in the Adriatic and in the air above Germany. Copying his big brothers, my father tried to join up too, but he was too young and his father refused to sign the papers – thankfully, or I might not be here.

The red poppies of Flanders

Most of my uncles were decorated, some more than once. One uncle was a navigator on the Lancaster bombers that fire-bombed Dresden. My mother-in-law was staying with relatives on the outskirts of Dresden that night and watched as the city burned. My uncle was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice. He used to joke that the casualties amongst bomber crew were so dire that they awarded medals to anyone who survived – though I’m sure they weren’t awarded for just turning up. Astoundingly, they all survived – when so many did not, including many they knew personally.