The Dawn Service

The ANZAC Day Dawn Service has become an integral part of commemorations on 25 April. However, credit for its origin is divided between the Reverend Arthur Ernest White of Albany, WA and Captain George Harrington of Toowoomba, Queensland.

Reverend White was a padre of the earliest ANZACs to leave Australia with the First AIF in November 1914. The convoy assembled at Albany’s King George Sound in WA and at 4 am on the morning of their departure, he conducted a service for all men. After the war, White gathered some 20 men at dawn on 25 April 1923 on Mt Clarence overlooking King George Sound and silently watched a wreath floating out to sea. He then quietly recited the words ‘As the sun rises and goeth down we will remember them’. All were deeply moved and the news of the ceremony soon spread. White is quoted as saying that ‘Albany was the last sight of land these ANZAC troops saw after leaving Australian shores and some of them never returned. We should hold a service (here) at the first light of dawn each ANZAC Day to commemorate them.’

At 4 am on ANZAC morning 1919 in Toowoomba, Captain Harrington and a group of friends visited all known graves and memorials of men killed in action in World War 1 and placed flowers (not poppies) on the headstones. Afterwards they toasted their mates with a rum. In 1920 and 1921 these men followed a similar pattern but adjourned to Picnic Point at the top of the range and toasted their mates until the first rays of dawn appeared. A bugler sounded the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’.

There is no standard format for the Dawn Service, but Brisbane’s traditional (since 1931) service is: assembly, bugle calls ‘Long G’ followed by ‘Last Post’ at exactly 4.28 am (the time of the original ANZAC landing), two minutes’ reverent silence, a hymn, short address, placing of floral tributes, a second hymn, bugle call ‘Reveille’ and the singing of ‘God Save the Queen’.