Helping Hands Serving the ANZACS
Anouck Van Dyck
Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth, Western Australia, has a number of tree-lined avenues, set aside to honour service personnel who died in the two World Wars and other engagements.
At the base of each tree is a plaque inscribed with the name of the deceased, age, date and manner of death and who dedicated the plaque.
For 2 hours, these streets were a sea of bright yellow as Helping Hands volunteers of all ages, from all four stakes in Perth, lovingly cleaned and polished over 1,400 plaques. More than 80 Church members and their friends wanted to show gratitude to those who died defending their country, in preparation for the annual Dawn Service which was attended by over 40,000 people on Anzac day.
Volunteer Marlene Renton said, “I found it quite refreshing to be working behind three delightful girls who sang, chatted and danced their way up the road. They were discussing the plaques and were obviously astonished at the ages of the ANZACS - most were early twenties or younger.”
Marlene continued, “For me, I was surprised and very pleased to find a plaque for one of my uncles. The couple who got there first very kindly stepped aside so I could clean it. I thought back to an Anzac service I attended in the past, and the dawn service at Kings Park. It was cold and dark and, although there were hundreds of people, it was absolutely silent as we waited for the dawn. I could only wonder at the thoughts and feelings of those ANZACs, waiting on the ships and barges to storm ashore at Gallipoli, knowing that this could very well be their final resting place. Many of the plaques we cleaned were in memory of those soldiers. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do something, however small, to honour the memory of these extraordinary ordinary men who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Patricia Madden of the Perth Warwick Stake (Heathridge Ward) wiped away tears as she & her 3 year old grandson scrubbed a plaque of a soldier who died in the Somme region in Belgium, where Patricia visited relatives on her mother’s side as a child growing up in Antwerpen, Belgium. Patricia expressed her gratitude for the Australian soldiers who fought in her old country, and said that being able to serve them was an honour and a privilege.
Christine Hannan added, “I took my mother, Nell Eacott, who at 97 years old is the longest baptised member of the Church in Western Australia, up to Kings Park after church on Sunday and we placed an Australian flag on her uncle’s memorial plaque, which was all lovely and clean. Her uncle died in France and is buried there, but I felt very close to him as I attached the flag. He was buried on the Battlefield beside many others who died in the same conflict. He was just 29 years of age.
For me – ANZAC day is very special – not as sacred as Easter but I love the fact that on ANZAC Day the scripture from John 15:13: is usually read: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
This same quote appears on many ANZAC Memorials – and when I see that, I cannot help but think about Jesus and what He did for us and although there is no comparison or equality, there is definitely a connection between what He did and what soldiers everywhere have done so that people can enjoy freedom – and it is something we cannot take for granted.