News State Victoria News Locked-out Melburnians gather behind the wire to defy crowd limit at Dawn Service

Locked-out Melburnians gather behind the wire to defy crowd limit at Dawn Service

Would-be Dawn Service attendees stare through the wire fence thrown up around the Shrine of Remembrance. Photo: Twitter/The Roadknight
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A temporary fence did little to deter those gathering at Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance for the traditional Anzac Day dawn service.

On a brisk Melbourne morning, several hundred people lined the fence surrounding the Shrine to mark the 106th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli.

Robert Reeve, 63, was among those who missed out on the 1400 registered tickets for the COVID-safe event but later joined up to 8000 people permitted for the march.

His late grandfather Garnett Palmer was a Salvation Army officer in WWII and survived heavy German fire as he drove an ambulance carrying wounded soldiers to a military hospital in Greece.

A 35-year Salvation Army veteran himself, Mr Reeve also reflected on his uncle who died in Lebanon’s Battle of Damour in 1941.

“My two uncles could see the battle down in the valley and they went down to start picking up the wounded and dead,” he told AAP on Sunday.

“Next thing there was a shell burst. It hit them. My uncle hit the deck. My uncle said to his younger brother ‘They’ve got me, young boy’ and he passed away.”

‘Focus on safety’

RSL Victoria chief executive Jamie Twidale conceded there was a small cohort of servicemen and women past and present displeased with the “contentious” crowd limit.

“A few veterans out there are a bit disappointed,” the current Army Reserve member told AAP.

“But our focus has always been on the safety of the community and veterans, and putting on the most memorable Anzac Day that we can.”

Mr Twidale, a former full-time army officer of 22 years, said Anzac Day was the one time of year where all veterans made a special effort to reconnect with their service mates.

“You never lose that bond once you’ve served overseas with people,” he said.

“A lot of veterans last year missed it and had to deal with all the pressures of the pandemic.”

Anzac Day commemoration crowd limits across the country jarred for many against the backdrop of bumper attendance allowances for traditional AFL and NRL clashes at the MCG and SCG.

In front of the Shrine, Victoria Governor Linda Dessau, Acting Premier James Merlino, Senator Jane Hume and other dignitaries stood and paused for the Last Post followed by the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand.

Legacy preserved

Major General Jeffrey Rosenfeld, a distinguished Australian military surgeon who joined the Army Reserve in 1984, said it was the greatest privilege of his life to operate on severely injured soldiers in Iraq.

He was heartened to witness the increasing participation of young Australians in Anzac Day events, ensuring their enduring legacy is preserved for generations to come.

“This remembrance of our history forged in battle will make us all stronger as a nation in order to resist the forces of tyranny and terror that continue to threaten our way of life and other democracies around the world,” Professor Rosenfeld said.

Elsewhere across the state, Victorians gathered to pay their respects at more than 300 other dawn services or at the ends of their driveways to Light up the Dawn once again.