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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Anzac Day in The Hague

The War Cemetary in the Hague. You can see a little Aussie flag in front of the Australian graves. A nice touch I thought.
War Grave of A Sergeant, member of the Royal Australian Air Force, shot down over Holland in 1941.
The Dutch Guard surround the cenetaph. The Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors, as well as officials from many other countries, including Canada, US, Britain, Belgium and France laid wreaths to mark the occasion. I though the most touching wreath was from the Australian Woman's Association. Two old Australian ladies stepped forward to lay the wreaths. I don't know how or why they ended up in the Hague, but it was nice to see them.

It wasn't exactly a dawn service, but it was pretty close to it. 7am saw a group of puffy eyed Australian and New Zealanders pile onto a bus at the Central station in the Hague. As the bus rolled out on the 45 minute journey to the Hague's War Cemetary, those on board turned to each other to exchange pleasantries. I always thought Australia lacked an identity, a real "culture" so to speak, but the more I travel the more I notice the difference when I'm just talking to Australians/New Zealanders with no other nationalities present. There's a easiness to it. A common understanding and an understated optimism. "G'day, I'm Paul. I'm from Perth and I work for Shell. Bloody hell it's early isn't it."

We arrived at the Cemetary. There were lots of forein notables there. Lots of ambassadors, army officials etc. We sang the national anthems of Australia, New Zealand and Holland as well as a traditional mouri song. Then they read the ode and played the last post (at triple speed - not sure it translates into Dutch). It was a very touching service, I guess, made all the more touching by the fact that we, like those soldiers all that time ago, were a long way from home ourselves, and you start to get a feeling of how scared and lonely these guys and girls must have been, to travel half way around the world, to fight in a war they knew very little about. After the ceremony, we headed to the New Zealand Ambassador's residence for brekkie. Sure enough, Anzac biscuits were on the menu. I took about fifteen.

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