Dawn Service Address: Dannevirke 25th April 2021

Dawn.

Dawn evokes
in the soldier
powerful memories,
powerful images,
powerful feelings.

Imagine if you will
the soldiers
whose names are engraved
upon this memorial,
and hundreds of thousands of others
from Gallipoli and the Western Front,
through WW2, Korea, Malaya, Borneo Vietnam, East Timor
and on to Iraq and Afghanistan,
in their blankets asleep
as dawn approaches,
only the night sentries
awake.

An hour or so before dawn
the soldiers are roused,
the word is passed quietly along the line,
Stand to,
Stand to,
Stand to.

Bleary eyed still,
the soldier rolls out of his blankets,
laces his boots,
puts on his equipment
and takes up his weapon.

For this is the time of day
when the combat soldier “stands to”
on high alert
in shell-scrape, pit, trench or bunker,
weapon at the ready,
eyes straining, focused to the front,
as night turns slowly into day,
peering through the gloom,
ready to fight,
to repel a dawn attack.

Dawn and dusk are dangerous times for soldiers in the front line, for they are the most likely times for attacks to be launched against them.

From Gallipoli to Afghanistan soldiers have “stood to” on high alert from an hour or so before, to an hour or so after both dawn and dusk.

Among us today
are returned soldiers
who have spent
hundreds of dawns
in that state of readiness,
high alert, hyper-vigilance
forever engraved
deep in the recess of memory.

Dawn,
a special time.

The dawn too was when that same soldier might sometimes be called upon to summon his courage, to rise out of the protection of his trench or bunker, to go over the top with his mates and to attack into and through the artillery and mortar fire, machine guns, rifles, wire and mines of the enemy, advancing steadily, into what for many, would be certain death.

It is said that the Dawn Service itself came about to commemorate the dawn landings of the first ANZAC troops to assault across the beaches at Gallipoli.

Thank you for coming out this morning
to stand to in remembrance
of those who have marched off
to their last parades.
To honour those
who have served
and are among us still.
And to honour servicemen and women
who stand to still
in the service of their country.

Na te po, ki te whaiao, ki te ao marama.
As night turns to dawn
and dawn into day
and as danger passes,
clearing patrols go out
to check the enemy
is not hiding out there.
The vigilance and tension subside.
The day sentries
and early warning patrols

And the word is passed along the line,
Stand down,
Stand down.
Stand down.

© 2021, Ross Nepia Himona