When you’re a Rover, it’s a pretty big deal. I don’t mean to make it bigger than it is, but you have the younger Scouts looking up to you, and it makes you want to be a good role model. Part of being a role model is about doing the big stuff, that the younger Scouts get to look forward to doing, when they get older. In Australia, ANZAC Day is part of that.
Anzac Day is a day that happens once a year in Australia and New Zealand, on 25th April. Originally, it was to commemorate (honour) the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey today) during World War I. Now though, it celebrates all "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served".
Yep, I borrowed that from Wikipedia. But what Wikipedia doesn’t tell you is that Rover Scouts in Australia and New Zealand also have the honour and privilege to form an Honour Guard around memorials in both nations, for the 12 hours before the Dawn Service (a service that starts at dawn) on the morning of ANZAC Day. We stand vigil, from the St George’s Day Ceremony the night before (St George, the Patrol Saint of Scouting – of course! I’ll write more about that later. We had a skit this year with St Geroge, the Dragon, the princess, and…I’m getting off track again…), until the start of the Dawn Service, at which point we ‘dismount’ (get off from) from the Memorial, and the local members of the Australian Defense Force take over, along with the RSL (Retired Servicemen’s League).
This happens in capital cities and small towns. From small regional settlements to the largest municipality, Rover Scouts have this honour. In some places, younger Scouts join in as well. But it’s Rover Scouts who have the honour of guarding these memorials. It’s not about celebrating war; but remembering the sacrifices of others, who lived in a different time and put their lives forward. It’s an important difference.
Dawn Services are run in different ways, but in my city not a word is spoken from the start to the end. There is a drum beat, planes fly over, a bugle plays too – but no one utters a word for an hour. This is in the presence of thousands and thousands of people; but the Rovers get the best ‘seats’ in the house, as we are standing for the entire time and forming a Guard along the path from the Eternal Flame to the Memorial itself.
Afterwards, we had the ANZAC Day March, where Scouts, Guides, School Bands, and more join different divisions who have served. This year, it rained. It rained so much that everyone was dripping wet. At one point, the Scouts were laughing in the rain, while the Guides were singing – it was sheer chaos and madness. But really fun.
This year was my last year doing this, as a Rover Scout. I may come and go to ANZAC Day services in the future, but I’ll never have the honour of being part of that Guard anymore for the Vigil overnight, and for the Dawn Service. But I looked at the faces of the younger Rovers at the Dawn Service this year, and know it’s in great hands.