Symbols of commemoration

 

Ceremonies, such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, include many meaningful symbols of commemoration.

#1MS (hashtag 1 minute's silence)

At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month (Remembrance Day), we pause for 1 minute of silence.

That minute is a special time to remember those Australians who died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

When this tradition first began in 1919, the period of silence was 2 minutes long.

Take a moment to reflect on who you'll be thinking about during the minute's silence on Remembrance Day. On social media, share it using #1MS.

Anzacs and the 'digger' image

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was raised in Egypt in November 1914, months before its famous beach landing on Gallipoli.

Later in the war, soldiers who served in the Anzac Corps on Gallipoli - the first Anzacs - proudly wore a brass badge 'A' on their uniforms.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers quickly became known as 'diggers' on Gallipoli because so much of their time was spent digging trenches.

Australia's prime minister during most of World War I, Billy Hughes, was first nicknamed 'the Little Digger' in 1916.

Bugle's Last Post

The Last Post is a bugle call that signals the end of the day's activities on a military site, battlefield or ship.

At commemorations, the short tune announces that the duty of the dead is over and they can rest in peace.

Download the Last Post and other music for your event

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on Bugles.

Dawn ceremony

The idea of a dawn service originates from the army's 'Stand-to' routine. This is when soldiers on active service are woken in the dark to guard against attacks that might come in the half-light of dawn. The timing also links symbolically to the first landing on Gallipoli at dawn on 25 April 1915.

Commemorative services were held as early as 25 April 1916, but the term 'dawn service' is not recorded until the 1920s.

Early dawn services, such as that held at Albany, Western Australia, in 1923 by the Reverend Arthur White, former padre with the 44th Battalion AIF, were forerunners of the modern tradition.

The first official dawn wreath laying service was held at Sydney's Cenotaph on Anzac Day 1928.

Read a newspaper report: "ALL READY", The Sun, 24 April 1928.

A ceremony at dawn soon became the preferred form of remembrance for veterans on Anzac Day.

Emu plume

During World War I, some soldiers of the Australian Light Horse decorated their slouch hats with a plume of emu feathers.

It was a tradition started by mounted troops in Queensland before the war.

Flame of remembrance

 

Faces lit by candlelight
Faces bathed in candlelight at the Canberra Anzac Day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial.

Flames are a symbol of life.

In Canberra, the Eternal Flame is a perpetual reminder of the service and sacrifice of all Australians who have given their lives in conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

In the past, people held candles at dawn services on Anzac Day. Today, we often use electronic candles for safety.

Honour rolls

Communities normally made honour rolls to remember those from their local area who served or died.

Often painted on wooden boards, you'll find the names of people from a community or a school who served during a war. Sometimes the names of those who died are marked with a cross.

Some honour rolls only commemorate the war dead from a particular area.

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on Honour Rolls.

Lest We Forget

In commemorations, the phrase 'lest we forget' was borrowed from line in an 1897 Rudyard Kipling poem, Recessional:

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

We often sing the poem as a hymn at Anzac Day services for Australians and New Zealanders.

'Lest We Forget' is frequently displayed on Anzac wreaths. The word 'lest' is Old English for 'less that'.

Medals

Medals were awarded to sailors, soldiers, nurses and airmen for their service and bravery. Veterans often wear their medals to a commemorative event, such as an Anzac Day march.

Both female and male veterans wear their medals on their left side.

Widows, widowers and other relations of veterans may wear their relative's medals on the right.

A veteran with medals on both sides may wear their own medals on the left and those of a relative on the right.

The Victoria Cross is the highest Australian military award for bravery in battle. They create the medals from melted down cannons that Britain captured from Russia during the Crimean War.

Since 1900, 100 Australians have received the Victoria Cross.

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication.

Memorials

Memorials provide a place for people to gather and remember those who served from their local community, region, state or country, especially on national days of commemoration.

Memorials come in all shapes and sizes, from the huge Australian War Memorial in Canberra to smaller cenotaphs, obelisks and walls in towns around Australia.

You'll usually find the names of wars, conflicts or peacekeeping operations on a memorial. Sometimes they list also the names of people who served or died during a war.

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on Memorials.

Red poppies

During World War I, red poppies were among the first plants to grow in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium.

We know red poppies as the flower of remembrance. Traditionally, they are:

  • added to Anzac Day wreaths
  • placed on honour rolls and memorials
  • worn on Remembrance Day

American Moina Michael first wore a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance in 1918 after she read Canadian John's McCrae's poem, In Flanders Fields.

At an Anzac Day dawn service in Palestine in 1940, each soldier dropped a red poppy from Mount Scopus onto the Jerusalem Memorial. A senior officer also laid a wreath of poppies. Read about the ceremony: Vigil On Mount, The Daily Telegraph, 25 April 1940.

Make a poppy for Remembrance Day

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on poppies.

Riderless horse

A soldier leading a horse on foot
The traditional riderless horse began the ANZAC Day march at the War Memorial

Sometimes, one riderless horse leads a commemorative march or parade.

Often called 'the lone charger', the horse a saddle with a a pair of boots set backwards in stirrups.

The horse is a symbol of mounted troops who have died in battle. It's a military tradition that could date back to Genghis Khan, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, who ruled from 1206.

Rosemary

Rosemary is an ancient symbol of fidelity and remembrance.

Since ancient times, the aromatic herb rosemary has been believed to improve your memory.

Rosemary grows wild on the Gallipoli peninsula, where Australians served in World War I. Sprigs of rosemary are traditionally worn as a symbol of remembrance on Anzac Day.

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focus on Rosemary

Slouch hat

A brown slouch hat with a badge and ribbon.

Australia Army slouch hat with badge AWM REL/07652

The felt slouch hat has been worn by the Australian Army since 1903.

Soldiers wear the left side of the hat turned up to avoid catching their rifles on the hat's brim during parades.

During World War I, many troops in Australian Light Horse units wore a plume of emu feathers on their slouch hats.

Unit colours

The term 'colours' broadly covers the four distinctive forms of Honourable Insignia in the Australian Army:

  • Standards
  • Guidons
  • Colours
  • Banners

The insignia symbolise the spirit of a regiment. Each insignia includes battle honours and badges granted to the unit to commemorate gallant deeds performed by members of the unit since it was first raised.an

Wreaths

Wreaths are flowers and leaves woven into a circle. They have traditionally been laid on graves and memorials in memory of the dead.

Make a wreath for Anzac Day (use artificial poppies or fresh flowers and leaves)

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on wreaths.


Last updated: 16 April 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Symbols of commemoration, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 2 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/commemoration/symbols-of-commemoration
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