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Queenslanders mark Anzac Day like no other


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Queenslanders mark Anzac Day like no other

Queenslanders have begun to commemorate an Anzac Day like no other, standing in their driveways and balconies in street services during the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.When COVID-19 distancing restrictions forced the cancellation of gatherings, thought bubbles on social media quickly formed into a nationwide campaign for Australians to commemorate at home.Many Australians watched the…

Queenslanders mark Anzac Day like no other

Queenslanders have begun to commemorate an Anzac Day like no other, standing in their driveways and balconies in street services during the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.

When COVID-19 distancing restrictions forced the cancellation of gatherings, thought bubbles on social media quickly formed into a nationwide campaign for Australians to commemorate at home.

Many Australians watched the national Anzac Day dawn ceremony broadcast from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and similar driveway vigils were held across the nation.

RSL Queensland president Tony Ferris said the “Light Up the Dawn” campaign was highly unusual, but exciting.

“This is an idea borne from the community, by the community, and it is unique but I think it’s going to engage people more going forward into those commemorative days like Remembrance Day and Anzac Day,” he said.

“I know that there were times gone by when that used to be the way things were done to commemorate those that were off at war where they’d come out and decorate their letterboxes just to receive the mail from those that were deployed overseas.”

Earlier this week, tens of thousands of Queenslanders pledged to take part.

“For me, this is hair on the back of your neck stuff,” Mr Ferris said.

A boy playing a trombone at the end of a suburban driveway

Ryan Hampson playing The Last Post at his home in Lota.(Supplied)

Ryan Hampson, 12, said this morning it was a great honour to play The Last Post on his trombone at Lota on Brisbane’s bayside.

“It is important because people won’t be going to memorials so at least when people play the last post on their driveway they’ll think about the Anzacs,” he said.

A young man and a woman holding candles on the driveway of a suburban house

Residents across Brisbane have marked Anzac Day from their driveways.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Ryan said he had been practising for weeks under the watchful eye of his mother and grandparents.

“It’s not always easy hitting the right notes as sometimes you run out of air,” he said.

He said about 20 Wynnum State High School students held dawn vigils on their driveways.

Residents line up for a driveway vigil shortly after dawn

Residents gathered kerbside this morning to remember the fallen in the Brisbane suburb of Deagon.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Two historic planes conducted an Anzac Day flyover from the Gold Coast to Brisbane early this morning, despite Queensland’s Chief Health Officer saying yesterday such events should not go ahead.

Jeannette Young rejected a request by the Caboolture-based Warbirds group, which wanted an exemption for a flyover.

Fighter Pilot Adventure Flights chief pilot James Crockett said they took off from Archerfield Airport in Brisbane shortly before 6:00am for a run that took them down to the Queensland border and north to Noosa.

“We made a point of making sure that we flew over several RSLs in southeast Queensland,” Mr Crockett said.

A World War II Spitfire flying above Surfers Paradise

A 1944 Spitfire in formation with a P-51 Mustang over the Gold Coast early this morning.(Supplied)

“People in Australia want to see those aircraft during Anzac Day and without us doing that, they’re not going to see them.”

“We are aware of a 95-year-old ex-serviceman at Currumbin this morning … we do this for these people.”

Mr Crockett said they flew a single-seater World War II Spitfire and a P-51 Mustang during the run.

“Social distancing is certainly no issue. We operate from a large facility here at Archerfield, and they have no concerns with what we’ve done.”

Another flyover occurred near Bundaberg.

Bargara Remembers Incorporated president Greg Barnes organised a T-28 Trojan, which saw action in Vietnam and Korea, to fly over the coastal community.

A vintage US Navy plane in mid-air

A T-28 Trojan flew over Bargara and Elliott Heads this morning.(Facebook: Jimmy Scaboo)

He said he was advised by Queensland Health that because the pilot ran a business flying the aircraft, the event could go ahead.

“They said that basically we’re exempt,” he said.

Members of the Bundaberg Aero Club Jabiru team organised their own flyover of Elliott Heads and Bargara.

“Three pilots that took their aircraft up … they followed the Trojan and came through and gave a fitting aerial salute for the coastal community.

“Both the pilot and the co-pilot are ex-RAAF servicemen, and both of them said they felt they would be letting the community down if they didn’t undertake it.”

Residents lighting up the dawn outside their home in Yeronga

Lighting up the dawn outside a home at Yeronga in Brisbane.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Early this morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey and Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner held a small Anzac Day dawn service that was livestreamed to the public.

The RSL livestreamed the dawn service from its website.

For most Queenslanders, the moment was marked closer to home.

Royal Australian Air Force veteran Roy Hartman OAM stands next to a flag in his driveway in Cairns.

RAAF veteran Roy Hartman has attended Anzac Day events for nearly half a century.(ABC News: Sharnie Kim)

Royal Australian Air Force veteran Roy Hartman OAM, 87, has attended Anzac Day events in Far North Queensland for nearly half a century, and was master of ceremonies at the Cairns service for many years.

“I’ve only missed five Anzac Day parades in that time — that was when I in the railway and was away from home,” Mr Hartman said.

“So not being able to go to an Anzac Day parade, it’s a disappointment to myself and to all other veterans, all other civilians as well who gather at the cenotaph to pay homage to the fallen.”

Mr Hartman and his wife, Dawn, were on their driveway at 6:00am to mount the RAAF flag.

A woman in silhouette playing a trumpet at dawn

Nicola Bignell plays the Last Post at Yeronga.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

‘A very different Anzac Day’

John Sexton normally plays The Last Post to a crowd of thousands at the Cairns Esplanade Anzac Day ceremony.

This year, Mr Sexton donned his uniform and his father’s World War II service medals for a special performance at the end of his driveway in the Cairns suburb of Freshwater.

Dozens of residents, many holding torches and candles, gathered outside of their homes to watch his rendition.

A man in uniform playing a cornet in the pre-dawn darkness

John Sexton had a much smaller dawn audience in Cairns this morning.(ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)

“It’s certainly a very different type of gathering this year, but I am just really happy that this very important day is still being marked, despite all that is going on around us,” Mr Sexton said.

In Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, Bill Fisher usually drives his Jeep in the local parade, but this year he has parked in the front yard and has been waving to people who drive past.

“We often drive the older veterans in the parade, and we can’t do that this hear, hopefully some will be able to drive past me today,” he said.

A man sits in an Army jeep parked in the front yard of a house

Bill Fisher is waving to passers-by from his jeep in Toowoomba.(ABC News: Peter Gunders)

At Pelican Waters on the Sunshine Coast, residents marked the occasion with a stirring rendition of the Last Post played from a kayak.

National champion soprano cornet player Fendall Hill said he was determined to mark Anzac Day this year.

“With everyone not able to get out to the commemorations this morning, I thought I just better do what I could in terms of being a brass player,” he said.

Mr Fendall was joined by a dozen of others on the water on this morning in kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and canoes, while many other locals paid their respects from their driveways.

Jamie Saltmarsh said this morning’s driveway service at his home in Deagon on Brisbane’s north was very important.

A family of four standing at the end of their driveway

Jamie Saltmarsh says he especially wanted his kids to join in their dawn vigil at Deagon.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

“I got the kids involved as well and we actually did a letterbox drop in the area just to encourage other people to do the same thing and show our respects, and just make sure that the diggers out there know that we really do care and we wanted to pay our respects,” Mr Saltmarsh said.

“I’ve got my two grandfathers [who served] — one was in Darwin when it was bombed and my other grandfather was a prisoner of war in Changi prison.”

On the Gold Coast, Elephant Rock at Currumbin normally attracts more than 20,000 people to its dawn service, but this year’s event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This morning, local residents lit candles on their beachside balconies and watched as kayakers and paddleboarders passed by.

The Last Post was played from a nearby balcony.

People standing along a beachfront watching the sunrise

About 100 people stood on the beach at Currumbin on the Gold Coast to watch the sunrise.(Facebook: ABC Gold Coast)

Resident Phil Manning said he has been coming to Currumbin for 15 years to commemorate Anzac Day.

“Normally 4:00am there’s probably 10 to 15,000 but today there’s nothing,” he said.

“It looks like it’s going to be another gorgeous Gold Coast day and it just hasn’t got that Anzac Day feeling yet, so yeah it’s definitely a different feeling this year.

“There’s the odd jogger, someone riding past on their bike and there’s just no one here but it’s the venue, that’s the shot right there and that to us that’s Anzac Day, so we pay our respects like everyone else.”

Soldier to soldier

Serving members of Brisbane’s 7th Combat Brigade are reaching out to isolated veterans in Queensland by phone to commemorate Anzac Day in lieu of sharing stories in person.

7th Combat Brigade commander, Brigadier Jason Slain, said maintaining a connection with their “veteran family” was important.

“Anzac Day normally is when we have the ability and opportunity to connect physically and share our experiences,” he said.

“While the day may have been disrupted, its purpose hasn’t changed.”

An Australian flag lit up to remember Anzac Day

An Aussie flag illuminated outside a Brisbane home at dawn on Anzac Day.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Queenslander and Army veteran Maryanne Mathias said the phone calls meant a lot.

“I’m very proud and honoured to be able to talk to everyone to tell them how important the services are to our country.”

New ways to remember

People have been encouraged to mark Anzac Day differently this year, by baking their own Anzac biscuits, making a poppy or rosemary wreath or making up a gunfire breakfast.

Retired dog handler Corporal Peter Zigmantas with his dog Nala.

Retired dog handler Corporal Peter Zigmantas with his dog Nala.(Supplied)

Retired dog handler and north Queensland veteran Peter Zigmantas is remembering his former service dogs Diesel, Simba and Nala today.

“I unfortunately went through three (dogs) in my time and that was really tough actually having to say goodbye to your best mate.”

The Clayfield Toombul RSL sub-branch found a unique way to honour veterans through a series of videos filmed during isolation, including members reciting the Ode of Remembrance in different locations across Brisbane.

“We’ve been filming diggers two at time so we could meet guidelines and it has given us the ability to give the community a traditional Anzac Day ceremony,” president Bill O’Chee told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Steve Austin.

Mr de Jersey filmed his Anzac Day speech.

“Every day they performed the small miracle of bringing human warmth, solace and reassurance to their patients — total strangers — in their care.

“Even at the end of the Great War in 1918, as Australian troops began returning home, these same nurses and doctors faced another deadly adversary, the Spanish Flu.”

Mr de Jersey reflected on a similar fight currently facing healthcare workers.

“Our emergency services personnel and medical staff are once more on the front line,” he said.

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