Each year on a school day as close as possible to ANZAC day, we gather together at Ivanhoe Grammar School to pause, reflect and give thanks. Yesterday was that day.
At four assemblies across three campuses, students, teachers, parents, past students and their families collectively paused. We acknowledged the first Anzacs - those very brave Australian and New Zealand soldiers who landed in the early dawn 103 years ago on 25 April 1915 on distant shores - and remembered and honoured the 72 old boys who died while members of the Armed Services since 1939.
At each service there was the posting of the Catafalque Guard, the laying of a wreath, the reading of the names of the Fallen and a minute silence in their honour. All were very moving services.
In his speeches, our Principal, Gerard Foley poignantly shared the story of our Founder, Reverend Sydney Buckley, who just two years after establishing Ivanhoe Grammar School, enlisted in 1917 and was posted in France as a Chaplain to the 49th Battalion.
‘On ANZAC eve 1918, 100 years ago today, he was near a village called Villers-Bretonneux in France.
As part of the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front, German forces using infantry and tanks, captured Villers-Bretonneux (near Amiens) from exhausted British defenders on 24 April 1918. The Australian 13th and 15th Brigades were brought forward and in a well-planned and co-ordinated night attack successfully recaptured the town on ANZAC Day
In a letter home, of which the School has a copy, he describes that time:
“Once more for a night we camp on a hill and get up about 3am to move off, travelling through semi-darkness to escape the notice of planes and the consequent shelling such as caused the death of two of my best friends that day. I have sent you a newspaper cutting relating to the story of the famous battle on the eve and morning of ANZAC Day.
It tells of how a note came to one of our battalions when they had pushed forward nobly, from the German Commandant asking them to surrender or be annihilated. Some of the men, tired and without food for nearly 24 hours, heard the Colonel read it out. “What! Surrender on ANZAC Day? Never!” was their reply. They went forward further – shot at from both sides as well as the front - and won, gloriously!
I was at the dressing station till 4 or 5 each morning my hours of sleep on 5 nights running being 2 hours, 1 hour, 4 hours, 4 hours, and 3 hours and saw some wonderful heroism.”
Reverend Buckley returned to Australia and his School and in 1919 oversaw the move from St James Anglican Church in Ivanhoe to the site that we currently occupy today at The Ridgeway.
Having experienced the horrors of war on the battlefields of Belgium and France you can imagine his distress when 20 years later he said farewell to over 900 of his boys who went to serve in the Armed Forces during the Second World War and the sorrow he must have felt when learning the news of the deaths of those whom we remember today.’
Guest speakers at assemblies included Mr John Doman and Mr Geoff Brown.
John Doman served in East Timor, as an army Warrant Officer Class 2. He is the current Commanding Officer of the Ivanhoe Grammar School Unit, wearing the rank of Cadet Major. John recently travelled with our students to the First World War Battlefields of France and Belgium over the Easter break.
In his speech, John spoke of the relevance of ANZAC Day. How it has become a day to acknowledging the sacrifices, courage and commitment of our servicemen and women who have been involved in a number of significant international conflict over recent decades. As well as being a significant day for ‘young Australian men and women who are educated about their own history, and understand the important link between Australia’s past, its present, and indeed its future.’
Considering the future of ANZAC Day John spoke of the significance of the role the current generation of soldiers.
‘Our World War 1 veterans now march together in a different place, reunited once more, as do many from the Second World War and Korea. Our Vietnam veterans, men and women I looked up to as a young soldier, are now in their 70s. And so it is up to the younger men and women who have returned from more recent conflicts; Somalia, Rwanda, The Solomon Islands, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, to take their place in the line, and to carry the baton for those who are no longer able.’
Mr Geoff Brown, Captain of the School in 1962, the first CUO of our inaugural Cadet Unit in 1961, outstanding sports representative of the School and current Executive Officer of the Old Grammarians Association, spoke about the impact that the Second World War had on the School, its leader and the students of that time.
In his role as Executive Officer of the Old Grammarians Association, Geoff has, over the years, met many past students who served in World War 2 and many who knew and went to School with those who lost their lives during that War. He shared details of their plight and reminded us that similar to the Anzacs who set foot on the beaches of Gallipoli, some as young as 16, those past students who lost their lives during World War 2 were also of a young age:
‘…many of them were not much older than our Year 12s…and most had not been out of School for more than six years. Harold James Barry had not turned 19 and Noel Irvine Crane was not yet 20 when he died’.
Geoff closed his speech with an important reminder for us all.
‘Amongst us are the relatives and friends of some of those that we especially remember today. They have not forgotten them, and neither must we. Lest We Forget.’