Anzac Day Dawn Service Peppermint Grove Beach

Anzac Day Dawn Service Peppermint Grove Beach

Anzac Day 2018 at Peppermint Grove Beach and Capel

The Capel RSL organised the 6.00am Dawn Service at Peppermint Grove Beach and a 11.00am service at the RSL Hall in the Capel town site preceded by a 10.30 march through the main street. The Shire of Capel provided in-kind and financial support to enable these events to occur, involving the use of professionally presented sound, shade marquees and traffic management.

Several hundred people including Shire residents and people from other localities attended each event, which was the fourth year of the Dawn Service at Peppermint Grove Beach. Shire President Cr Murray Scott delivered a heartfelt Dawn Service address as part of the program, which reflected the progress of World War I in 1918 (100 years ago) and is printed below for your interest.

Community support and cooperation occurs each year to make these events unique and relatable to the public of different ages.  Some examples of the community involvement included the following:

  • Members of the RSL raised funds for and installed a memorial and flagpole at Peppermint Grove Beach with Shire support
  • The Capel CWA provided breakfast at $10 a head to over 100 people at the Gunfire Breakfast
  • Many  community groups participated in the Anzac Day March and laid wreaths
  • Army Cadets supported both events with a flag raising and formed the Catafalque
  • Bendigo Bank handed out rosemary for remembrance
  • Stay on Your Feet group provided a morning tea after the 11.00am service
  • The Sing Australia Dalyellup singers sang songs about peace and  hymns at both services.

A member of our community , Ben Aldrige who served in East Timor was the guest speaker at the Capel 11.00am service.   At this same service Jen Thompson presented two files of research on soldiers who has resided in Capel as part of the Capel Cemetery Group’s research.

A small selection of the collection of photos are on the Shires facebook site and the full collection of photos is now housed in the Shire of Capel Archives.

We thought you would like to read the speech that Shire President Murray Scott presented at the Dawn Service which was organised by the Capel Sub Branch of the RSL

“Good morning, my name is Murray Scott, Shire President of the Shire of Capel.

I am proud to be here at Peppermint Grove Beach for the fourth Dawn Service within our Shire, organised by the Capel RSL sub branch. A dawn service close to the beach has a symbolic link both to the dawn landing at Gallipoli in 1915 and to the WA coastline seen just after dawn by soldiers returning by ship after WWI had ended in 1918.

I have been following the progression of each year of WWI at our Dawn Services to give you a sense of what it was like 100 years ago for soldiers, nurses and those at home. I ask you each year to have a think about all the activities you have done in the last twelve months and how this last year might have raced. A year has passed in WWI and the Australian and New Zealand soldiers in their thousands are still battling horrendous conditions, machine gun fire, and mustard gas in Europe, day in day out.

An Australian solder stationed in France wrote to his mother in March 1918, “I am writing from outside our gun pit and taking advantage of a bit of sunshine. I think winter is practically at an end and I am dam glad of it. I have just received a letter from the Girl who lives in Bunbury and on holidays staying at the Rose Hotel. She seems to be having a gay time of it, with the ex- Premier dining at Govt House. Was glad to hear you had a decent harvest this year seeing that the crops, in general, were a failure. There is a very decided smell of gas here, all hands are sneezing and coughing- if it gets any worse I will have to cease writing. Before long we are expecting something big…” As it turned out in late March, Germany launched a massive offensive with a million men and 6000 machine guns. There was a loss of territory by the allied forces with an average of 7000 dead each day.

Noel Carthew wrote in his book “Voices from the Trenches”, that two Australian divisions incredibly stemmed the German attack after days of desperate fighting near Villers- Bretonneux which saved that town and also Amiens from total destruction. That day was 24th of April, yesterday, one hundred years ago. It was here that Western Australian Lieutenant Sadlier with his squad destroyed 6 machine gun posts and later he was awarded the Victoria Cross. As you might know, to this day, the citizens and schoolchildren of Villers Bretonneux honour the memory of those Anzacs who preserved their town.

In retaliation, there was a bombardment of trench mortars which consisted of molten tar and petrol. 20,000 mustard and phosgene gas shells caused lack of oxygen, hearing, vision loss and death by snipers. If they survived a life time of ill health followed. A hospital nurse wrote “The terrible gas is the worst thing I have ever seen. The intensity of the pain robs a man of all ability to do anything but suffer. The fiery agony eats deeper and deeper into his heart and lungs and a lessening of the terrible fire is all he craves for. It is a nameless horror and the very sight adds ten years to one’s life”

Sir John Monash was commanding the Australian Corps at Hamel and in early July he led his army to victory using innovative tactics which became a model for the Allied Offensive. Attacks along the Hindenburg Line occurred with thousands of German prisoners taken with the last assault by the 6th Brigade of Montbrehain on 5th October. This was the last action fought by the Australian Infantry and Corp.

Imagine when soldiers reached the shores of Western Australia on the ships taking them home from WWI. On one ship, they were up before dawn, Noel Carthew wrote, blind soldiers and those immobile helped on deck, those who could silently strained their eyes for the first glimpse of that low, sandy, unimpressive coastline!

It was reported that a low wordless murmur was heard and somewhere on board someone played “Home sweet home” on his mouth organ as the tears of many fell.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018 the guns fell silent, but for many, the anguish was to continue as they returned home to cope with a disability, family upheaval, disconnection, horrifying memories and their own mental state. In Australia, with more than 60,000 males dead, the monumental grief felt by family and loved ones were tragic.

You may remember the voice of Jack Nicholson who has been our companion at our dawn services each year. He is the Anzac who has given us words that stay honoured in time and continues his recollections.

……….recorded voice for about 40 secs of an Anzac who talked about his experience in WWI……………………….

Farewell Jack, may your words remain with us every Anzac Day.

You may have heard of the contemporary description of the psychological, emotional and physical effects of wartime and combat conditions experienced by soldiers, nurses and other personnel called “post- traumatic stress”. During WWI the words “shell shock” were used when soldiers were deafened, blinded, traumatised, often unable to walk in a line or coordinate muscles after relentless shelling. Many felt on return to Australia that if was only their war time mates who understood the conditions they fought in. They were in a state of grief from the loss mates of both in battle and from the world- wide influenza epidemic in 1918 and 19.

Their trauma was evident in the “thousand-yard stare” used to describe the blank, unfocused gaze of soldiers who have become emotionally detached from the horrors around them.

After hospital treatment, many shell-shocked soldiers were placed on farms to help them recover in a quiet country setting, coordinate their limbs and recover some skills such as milking. In Western Australia, a WWI nurse set up a rest home for returning WWI soldiers to help them start their mental recovery and to do occupational therapy. A real example was a returned soldier embroidered a Dutch scene onto a fireplace screen and when complete he gave it back to that nurse to thank her.

This year’s verse is from the poem “I yearn for spring” dedicated to all of those who have suffered the psychological rigours and emotional impact of war. It is based on an Australian soldier’s reaction while on leave in London during WWI. He was attending a function which he left in distress after he had loudly stated his point of view.   The poppies are both a symbol of WWI and of Remembrance Day and flower in late spring.

Drunk, Ha

Dancing, No

Sick, Yes, of it

I told them it’s how I am now.

With their tea and cakes

All dressed in finery

How can you go to the theatre

When our boys are out there

In a theatre of war

I can walk straight now

Milking cows in country air

Their gentle lowing soothes my shattered nerves

But, will I ever think straight again?

Only a keen observer will know

That every time the tea and cakes loom close

I have to stare a 1000 yards ahead

To see the boys I truly trusted

Pick themselves up from fields of scarlet poppies

heads swaying in the air, cursing then laughing

to live again in my muddy memories

so easily cracked apart, on Australia’s cloudless days

Each year, I yearn for spring


I am thinking of all the people today reflecting on the significance of Anzac Day to them, their families and their forebears, let us say together… “As the sun rises today at this peaceful place we will remember them, As the sun rises today at this peaceful place, we will remember them.”