Despite the COVID-19 shutdown, Australian expat Morgan Roy will still commemorate Anzac Day from his Chicago home. (Supplied: Morgan Roy)
Australians at home and overseas are preparing to commemorate Anzac Day in circumstances not seen for over 100 years.
- The Spanish Flu outbreak of 1919 also caused the cancellation of parades and mass gatherings
- In Chicago, Morgan Ray will be livestreaming a special ceremony from the Australian Embassy
- Reverend Bill Crews will offer a free dinner to the homeless from his food van in Woolloomooloo
Not since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, which also caused the cancellation of parades and mass gatherings, have such extensive restrictions been in place for Anzac Day.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time that a special service was held at the Domain with attendees made to wear face masks and stand “no less than three feet apart”.
This year, the Australian War Memorial will proceed with its service but without the veteran’s march and members of the public in attendance.
Viewers can still watch the ceremony as part of the live ABC broadcast, starting with coverage of the National Dawn Service from 5:00am.
However, from Gallipoli to Goulburn, remembrance ceremonies have been cancelled due to COVID-19, leaving potentially millions of people at home and overseas to find alternative ways to honour Australia’s servicemen and women.
The Spanish Flu outbreak in 1919 prompted similar changes to Anzac Day. (Supplied: National Library of Australia)
Whether it is via a livestream into the living room or at dawn on the end of a driveway, the national tribute to our fallen soldiers is expected to be marked by a more intimate offering in 2020.
Expats stream services
On the other side of the world, Morgan Ray will be livestreaming a special ceremony from Australia’s Embassy in the United States.
The Australian expat living in Chicago usually attends a ceremony on the banks of the Chicago River but lockdowns have made that impossible this year.
“Anzac Day is one of the highlights of the year for the Aussie community all over the US,” he said.
“It will be a little strange to be alone, but I will wake up early on Saturday morning and set up the computer on my balcony so I can enjoy the sunrise.”
“I think this one will have a little more meaning than usual; it will help me better understand the sacrifice.”
‘I’m proud to be Australian’
Danny O’Neill said he felt sad not to be leading a service in Houston this Anzac Day. (Supplied: Danny O’Neill)
Former RAAF officer Danny O’Neill was planning to lead an Anzac Day service in Houston, Texas but will have to remain home.
The health worker said it will be the first time in almost 20 years that he won’t be attending a ceremony.
“I do feel sad. It will be very different this year not being able to be around other expats to share our common bond,” he said.
“Anzac Day is extremely significant.
“Even though we are in the US right now, I’m proud to be an Australian and truly believe we are one of the luckiest countries in the world.”
Few options for homeless veterans
Reverend Bill Crews will be feeding homeless veterans from his Sydney food van on Anzac Day. (Supplied: The Rev. Bill Crews Foundation)
For the last 15 years, Reverend Bill Crews has held a special service for veterans on Anzac Day at his church in Sydney’s inner west.
Unable to hold the service this year, he will be offering a free dinner from his food van in Woolloomooloo.
“It’s a hard day for some veterans and at this time they are really, really vulnerable,” he said.
Volunteers will be handing out hot meals to those in need while maintaining social distancing.
“Our society at time is pretty unforgiving, especially right now,” Rev. Crews said.
“It is important to do, because then people understand they’re not alone.”
Driveway dawn services
Vicki Davison will stand at the end of her driveway this year in honour of her grandfather, Charlie Mance. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)
Sydneysider Vicki Davison, meantime, is preparing to participate in the combined dawn service from her driveway at sunrise on Saturday.
Her grandfather, Charlie Mance, a decorated WWI veteran, campaigned tirelessly for the recognition of Australian servicemen and women.
At 6:00am, she will play a recording of the Last Post and hold a minute’s silence in his memory.
She is refusing to let the chaos of the present moment diminish her commitment to his legacy.
“I’m not going to give Anzac Day up because of what is happening,” she said.
“I still feel just as proud standing on the end of my driveway.”
Ms Davison said she has noticed a groundswell of interest in finding alternatives to traditional ceremonies this year.
“It’s really brought a different side of people and it’s wonderful to see that we can remember in a different way,” she said.
“In these uncertain times it’s something that lifts you up to see people being united.”
Restrictions drive online interest
On the NSW Central Coast, Matthew Watkins has been practising to sound the Last Post on his trumpet.
In previous years, the 10-year-old has travelled to Canberra to watch the Anzac Day Dawn Service with his family.
“I usually watch the soldiers parade, but this year I will hang up flags on my house and play the Last Post at 6:00am,” he said.
“Both my great grandfather and my pop served in world wars, so I like to carry on the family tradition of participating in the day.”
Justin Wilbur created the Aussies & Kiwis for Anzacs page after speaking to veterans. (ABC News)
It’s these kinds of responses that Justin Wilbur was hoping for when he started the Aussies & Kiwis for ANZACs Facebook page.
The page has attracted over 220,000 members since it launched in March and has become a popular way of sharing ideas to commemorate under COVID-19 restrictions.
During these difficult times, Mr Wilbur welcomed the opportunity for reflection and national pride.
“With everything that has been going on the country really needs something that is going to pull it back together and build that national pride,” he said.
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Where can I watch Anzac Day coverage?
The ABC will cover Anzac Day proceedings occurring across the country.
From 5:00am local time you can watch the National Dawn Service on ABC TV, the ABC Australia Facebook page, and also on the ABC Australia YouTube channel.
Local Anzac services across the country, while closed to the public, will be broadcast on ABC TV and local radio.
- Melbourne, Shrine of Remembrance: Dawn Service 6:10am-6:30am
- Adelaide, National War Memorial: Dawn Service 6:30am-7:00am
- Sydney, Anzac Memorial Hyde Park: Morning service 10:00am-10:30am
At 11:30am local time, a reflection video will be live-streamed across all ABC local radio Facebook pages and on the ABC News Facebook page.
This reflection will include The Ode and Last Post, followed by a one-minute silence to mark when the first Australian troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915.