The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

Marie Benoit's Diary: Anzac Day Commemorative Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony....

Marie Benoît Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 09:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

at Pietà Military Cemetery

The 25th of April marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. Thus, Anzac Day, has been observed in Malta since 1916 and was originally two services, a service for non-Catholics was held at Pietà Military Cemetery and the second at Addolorata Catholic Cemetery, H.E. Ms Julienne Hince, High Commissioner for Australia, said in her speech at Pietà Military Cemetery where Anzac Day was celebrated. She went on to give those present the history and significance of Anzac Day.

ADVERTISEMENT

 "With the unveiling of the Malta Memorial in 1954, the services were combined and held at this location until the late 1970s. Since 1979 the Anzac Day commemorative service has been held at Pietà Military Cemetery as it contains the most Anzac war graves (231) on the island," Her Excellency said.

I am going to quote her entire speech as I find it so interesting: "In 1915, soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), formed part of the British Army's Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles strait to the Allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Anzac forces landed at Gallipoli at dawn on 25 April, 1915. After meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders, what had been planned as a bold stroke to eliminate Turkey from the war, quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied force (comprising Anzac, British, French, Irish and Indian units) was evacuated after both sides had suffered appalling casualities. Over 56,000 Allied Soldiers were killed in the campaign, including more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand troops. Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, for Australia and New Zealand it left an inspiring legacy, becoming central to the national identities of each. Today, Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of Gallipoli and the First World War; it is the day we remember all Australians and New Zealanders, who served and died in war and on operational service.

Australia had a population of 4.5 million when the cataclysm of the First World War unfolded in August 1914. Of the one million men old enough to serve, 417,000 volunteered and 330,000 went overseas. Sixty-two thousand Australians lost their lives.

In 1915 Malta had been a British colony for 100 years. Apart from many Maltese serving with the British Armed Forces in the First World War, including 800 volunteers who supported the

Gallipoli campaign, almost 60,000 wounded and sick Allied troops were evacuated to Malta from the Dardanelles. Many died of their wounds or illness and Malta became the first resting place of 229 members of the Australian Imperial Force and 79 members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

In the Second World War, Malta played a vital role as an Allied naval and air base. As part of the Allied effort from Malta and in defence of the island, ships of the Royal Australian Navy escorted supply convoys and intercepted enemy shipping. In the air, pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force formed part of the island's RAF fighter's defence.

Twenty-four Australian aircrew and seven New Zealand aircrew killed in the conflict are buried in Malta. In addition, 206 Australians and 85 New Zealanders killed in the Mediterranean area in WWII with no known grave (most of whom served with the RAF), are commemorated on the Malta Memorial in Floriana."

After Her Excellency's informative speech a one-minute silence was observed, offering a time for reflection.

Ms Gabrielle Kneipp of the Australian High Commission read the moving poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae In Flanders Fields, written in 1915. 

Wreaths were then laid.

Laurel and rosemary are both associated with Anzac Day, Laurel was used as a symbol of honour, woven into a wreath by the ancient Romans to crown victors and the brave.

Rosemary - an ancient symbol of remembrance - is believed to have properties that improve memory.

Traditionally, sprigs of rosemary are worn on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. The herb has particular significance for Australians as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula. The poppy, formerly associated with Remembrance Day has become popular in wreaths used on Anzac Day.

The 'Last post' is one of a number of bugle calls in military tradition which mark the phases of the day. Where 'Reveille' signalled the start of a soldier's day, the 'Last Post' signalled its end.  It is believed to have originally been part of a more elaborate routine, known in the British Army as 'tattoo', which has its origins in the 17th century. Tattoo is a derivation of doe den tap toe, Dutch for 'turn off the taps', a call which is said to have followed the drum beats in many a Dutch pub while English armies were campaigning through Holland and Flanders in the 1690s.

The Last Post was later incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell and symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can 'rest in peace.'

 

Ms Jeanette Camilleri-Dawes was Master of Ceremonies while Ms Jill Camilleri, Honorary Consul for New Zealand, also spoke.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Kerem A Kirati read a quote attributed to Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - a tribute to Anzacs who died at Gallipoli. "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 Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours...you, the  mothers, who sent their sons from faraway 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."

Colonel Brian Gatt of the Armed Forces Malta then read The Ode to which the audience responded "We will remember them."  This was followed by The Last Post, one minute's silence and then flags were raised.

The Coro Bel Canto participated and sang several songs including O God, Our Help in Ages Past followed by a prayer by Father Joe Meli, Chaplain, Armed Forces of Malta.

The national anthems of Australia, New Zealand and Malta followed.

The piper that morning was Mario Farrugia and the buglers came from the Armed Forces of Malta. Nine standard bearers came from various associations. Others who participated in this moving and colourful ceremony were sea cadets and members of St Aloysius College Scout Association.

A lively reception at Her Excellency's residence in San Pawl Tat-targa followed where pianist Ramona Formosa entertained guests.

On their way out guests could help themselves to four, most informative pamphlets - The Anzac Day Experience which I believe were researched by Terence Mirabelli. There was also a basketful of the famous Anzac biscuits which have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) established in World War I. The biscuits were sent by wives and women's groups to soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and kept well during naval transportation.

Every step of this ceremony was meticulously planned from beginning to end. This was time well spent and thoroughly enjoyed.


  • don't miss