News Crowds return to Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country

Crowds return to Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country

Veterans and their families are preparing to commemorate Remembrance Day together for the first time in two years.
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Remembrance Day in 2020 was truly like no other.

Plans across the country were thwarted due to pandemic lockdowns, limiting tradition for crowds of veterans and attendees.

The Australian War Memorial opted to commemorate the occasion with a nationally televised ceremony, and RSLs nationwide were forced to either limit crowds numbers or stream their services online.

In Melbourne, the state hardest hit by the pandemic in 2020, ceremonies were kept to a strict minimum.

The streets of Melbourne surrounding the Shrine of Remembrance, typically full of veterans and attendees, were eerily quiet.

A bugler seen on the streets outside the Parliament of Victoria in Melbourne. Photo: AAP

There was no speech on the steps, nor a huddled, collective listening to the Last Post.

Instead, traffic paused as trumpeters sounded from 10 spots across the CBD.

Now, as vaccination rates continue to rise and Australians look towards a COVID-safe future, veterans and their families are preparing to commemorate the occasion together for the first time in two years.

Remembrance Day marks the signing of an armistice between Allied forces and Germany to end hostilities on November 11, 1918.

Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the end of World War I, where more than 60,000 Australians lost their lives.

The day has evolved since to become a day of recognition of the service of soldiers across various conflicts.

A statement from Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, which reopened to fully vaccinated attendees on November 5, said this year’s service will focus on the past 21 years of service.

“The past 21 years have seen Australians serve all over the world in conflicts, peacekeeping and peacemaking missions. Here at home, the Australian Defence Force has served to support our community through some of the most challenging experiences of our generation – from floods to bush fires and in the front lines of the current pandemic.”

Gerry and Ed Sheean, nephews of Victoria Cross recipient Teddy Sheean, will release homing pigeons from the Shrine’s balcony on Remembrance Day.

Tomorrow will mark the first time since the shrine was opened in 1934 that birds will be released to mark the occasion.

A Remembrance Day service will take place on Thursday at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

In Canberra, the Australian War Memorial will hold its annual Remembrance Day National Ceremony live and in person once more, broadcast live on ABC from 10.45am AEDT.

And, in New South Wales, the 2021 service will take place for invited guests at the Cenotaph in Martin Place between 10.30am and 11.30am, which will also be live-streamed on the NSW government website.

RSL Queensland president Tony Ferris spoke of the importance of commemorating Remembrance Day.

“There are not too many families in this country that are not impacted by somebody that has served, whether it be a great-grandfather, a great-uncle, a father, a mother, whatever the case may be,” he said.

“The very important factor about Remembrance Day is that opportunity when those that have served this country come back – they’re with family, they can commemorate being a family unit again.

“But family serve at the same time as service people do, so Remembrance Day is very important for that fact.”

For Paralympian and Afghanistan veteran Curtis McGrath, Remembrance Day helps foster a connection between all of Australia’s wartime allies and that it also offers Australians a chance to take a moment to commemorate war casualties and those serving in other countries.

“It’s really important to remember that it’s not just New Zealand and Australian soldiers going out there and fighting. There’s a whole other contingent side of our conflict that sometimes gets a little bit forgotten,” he said.

“It is a remarkable day and it’s special because it’s the coming of home and the finish of our conflict or our service in an international sense.

“If we can do this together, it just shows that it is not forgotten at all. It’s one of those moments that is significant for sure.”

When the clock strikes 11 on Thursday morning, Mr Ferris has one message for Australians around the country.

“Just stop and have a minute to remember,” he said.

“Don’t be frightened to ask the question of somebody you know who has served, and whether there’s anything we can do and if they’re OK.

“It’s very important to do that so they know we’re there for them.”

Watch the Shrine of Remembrance’s service here

-with AAP