EVERYONE is invited to take part in the annual service to remember soldiers from ‘Down Under’ who died on this side of the world.
The ANZAC Day service at St Mary’s Church, in Church Hill, Harefield, will start at 3pm tomorrow (Thursday) then move to the cemetery in the church grounds for the laying of wreaths.
The annual commemoration has been a tradition in the village since April 25, 1918, three years after the failed Gallipoli landings by Anzac forces that resulted in many casualties.
Many of those injured were brought to Britain and treated at Harefield Hospital, in Hill End Road, which had been turned into a military hospital: 112 soldiers are buried in the cemetery, which is the largest number in any one place outside New Zealand and Australia.
The Reverend Martin Davies, vicar of St Mary’s, said: “Every year this is a big event for the church.
“This sort of thing can be easily forgotten, but the Australian people really appreciate the care we gave their soldiers in the hospital and they are grateful that we remember their people positively.
“We remember the New Zealanders as well, because they were working together in the war.”
Children from nearby schools and villagers turn out in their droves to pay their respects, and are joined by people from further afield.
“We get people travelling long distances to be here and remember,” Mr Davies added.
He said the involvement of schoolchildren and scout, brownie and guide groups makes the service particularly poignant.
“The Last Post is sounded and the flag is raised, then the children lay their flowers on the graves. It’s very moving,” he said.
The preacher at the service, the Reverend Nick Barry, is deputy chaplain in chief of the Royal Air Force and regularly travels to Afghanistan to work with troops. Straight after the service, he will fly out to continue his work abroad.
Visitors are welcome to stay afterwards for some refreshments.
“It’s quite a social occasion too,” said Mr Davies.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers became known simply as ANZACs.
The day is a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand, where it is now treated as an opportunity to remember all military personnel who have lost their lives fighting for their country.