'That is the Anzac legacy': Our heroes honoured at dawn

A HUSH fell over the crowd gathered around the honour stone at Goodna, as the sound of bagpipes filled the air. 

Hundreds stood shoulder to shoulder in the dark, their heads bowed in respect. 

The names of all the Goodna men, written on the stone, who had fallen in war were read out. 

In the brief silence before the next speaker stepped up to the lectern, the sound of nearby kookaburras laughing filled the air - a sign of the approaching dawn.

As Goodna RSL sub branch member Rod Gould took the microphone, his voice wavered. 

He was nervous. 

The emotion of the moment could be felt by those listening, as Mr Gould began to read the ode. 

'They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old,' Mr Gould confidently and respectfully began, his voice heavy with feeling. 

A sombre echo of the second line could be heard as some in the crowd joined in; "Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn," Mr Gould carried on. 

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams

Among those gathered were two brothers wearing the medals of their great grandfather, grandfather and father who each fought in the world's major conflicts. 

The men didn't want their names published but shared what they knew of their ancestors' war time experience. 

Their great-grandfather survived World War I after being shot. 

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams

At home, he often struggled to forget the horrors of what he experienced they said, locking himself in his room to pray. 

Their grandfather fought in the Pacific during the Second World War and returned from service with less than a liking for the Japanese.

For the longest time it was their mother who wore the medals on ANZAC Day, but she died recently, the brothers said. 

"Now it's up to us to honour them and wear their medals proudly" one brother said. 

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams

Many children were in the crowd, learning the meaning of Anzac Day and why the sacrifice of Australia's brave diggers deserves to be recognised. 

"I feel emotional when I think about what those poor fellas went through," Mr Gould said after the service finished, some 30 minutes before the breaking of dawn. 

"I can't help thinking about what it would have been like, to die alone in the battle field that way. 

"It is emotional to think about." 

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams

In his address, Mr Gould highlighted that the men who boarded ships to foreign lands, to fight for their king and country were not hardened soldiers.

"They had only each other and themselves to rely on," Mr Gould told the gathered crowd.

"They were ordinary, everyday people. They were farmers, bank clerks, posties, shop assistants, some as young as 15.

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams

"By the end of the day and those that followed, they were no longer innocents. Through what they experienced, in all its dreadfulness, they had become soldiers. They had all shown courage and extraordinary valour.

"That day, they had fulfilled their solemn duty and service to the country but above all, they had served each other.

"And together they had become the Anzacs... It showed that being a Kiwi or Aussie stood for something. It stood for everything. They created a bond that was so strong, a bond that is still with us today, a bond built in trust, respect, and a shared experience. It binds our countries together in a way that nothing else can.

"That is the Anzac legacy."

Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Goodna Anzac Day Dawn Service. Rob Williams


The second battle for Villers-Bretonneux (April 24 - 26, 1918)

IN THE dead of the night, one hundred years ago, Australia soldiers waited hidden in the French countryside for the right moment to attack.    It was April 24, 1918.    The Germans had taken the village Villers-Bretonneux, north of Paris and west of the Belgium border - a strategic position to occupy.    The enemy forces were pushing out west of the town towards Amiens.    Two Australian brigades, the 4th and 5th Divisions infantry units, were assigned the task of beating back the Germans.    It was the second time blood had been spilt on the fields surrounding the town after Australian and British forces stopped the German advance toward Amiens in April the same year.    German soldiers manned machine guns set up in the town and guarded the railway embankment to the south and west. The enemy also lurked in the woods to the town's west.    The Australian and British forces split in two; the southern attack began at 10pm in a surprise attack with no preliminary artillery bombardment; they planned to surround the Germans.   As the troops advanced from the south, enemy machine guns fired and soldiers fell to the ground.    Knowing they faced annihilation, the Australian soldiers began to throw grenades and successfully destroyed the machine guns.    Three battalions attacked from the north.    In the dark, they formed up along the Fouilloy-Cachy road to the west across the fields from the entrance to the Villers-Brettoneux Military Cemetery.   The battalions moved out of the valley and over the ground on which the cemetery and memorial now stand, through to the Villers-Bretonneux-Le Hamel road.   German soldiers reacted and fired flares, lighting the night sky, followed by a barrage of machine gun fire.    It was a ferocious attack, as one unknown soldier recalled; "These three men the first German machine gun crew were either bayoneted or shot. Here and there a Fritz would leap out of the trench or shell hole only to fall riddled with bullets and then to be bayoneted by the boys as they came up".   By the time dawn broke on the morning of April 25, the Australians had surrounded the town of Villers-Bretonneux.    The next day, a new front line was established and the diggers, along with some help from the British units, declared victorious in winning back the territory.   It would be another seven months until the war finally ended.