(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)
The West Australian city of Albany hadn’t seen anything like it, in one hundred years.
Thousands of soldiers marching through the streets, tens of thousands paying their respects, and an international fleet of warships off the coast.
All in commemoration of the day a century ago when two young nations – Australia and New Zealand – sailed from Albany to join the Great War.
Ryan Emery has more.
(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)
The historical footage shows excited young men waving to the camera.
Dressed in their uniforms, they proudly march up and down York Street, Albany’s main street.
Once onboard the ships that would take them to the great war, their enthusiasm doesn’t appear to wane.
They were on their way to places that would test them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The soldiers had come from around Australia, to Albany and for many they were also meeting their cousins, the New Zealanders, for the first time.
The early days of the Anzac legend was beginning to form.
On November 1, 1914 the more than 30,000 troops set sail onboard a massive flotilla – bound for Egypt where they would train to be soldiers.
Months later, when bloodied in the field of battle, they learnt the hardships behind the job.
One hundred years on and the respect for their sacrifice is still alive and well.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Albany on Saturday to show their gratitude and to never forget.
“Yeah, you think of all of them from way back and a lot of the losses our grandparents, their families, their brothers were killed so your mind goes right back to all of those people.”
But for the relatives of those that served, the day was also about the horror of war.
“I think 100 years ago, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into and I think with the beauty of hindsight now realise the tragedy that it all led to and whilst I think our involvement in many ways was terrible, it was also something that’s made us who we are today. Not that that’s always a good thing either.”
Saturday also marked the official opening of the National Anzac Centre by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Australia’s Prime Minister addressed the crowd.
“In no way should the centenary of Anzac glorify war, but it should commemorate what is best in our human character and acknowledge that the worst of times can bring out the best in us. It is an honour to be in such company today. The living and the glorious dead as we commemorate this marvelous centre.”
The centre is unlike other historical centres.
It uses technology such as touch screens, with high resolution animations, and audio recordings by actors voicing soldier’s letters.
It takes visitors on a personal journey of one of 30 Australian and New Zealand troops who were on the first two convoys.
There’s also the opportunity to follow a German and Turkish soldier.
One of the characters represented is Gordon Charles Naley – one of the first Indigenous people to go to war.
His grandson Michael Laing isn’t sure what drove him to volunteer to fight at a time when indigenous Australians weren’t recognised.
“I can only guess it would be very similar to what motivated a lot of other non-Aboriginal people because around about that time he was starting to include these friendships with a lot of non-Aboriginal people during the course of his work because he’d obviously meet non-Aboriginal people on stations and things like that. I can only guess that when the war started because he formed some close friendships and probably got caught up in the spirit of it all and that’s probably how it happened.”
Shortly after the centre was opened, thousands gathered on top of Mt Clarence overlooking King George Sound.
They watched as seven naval vessels from Australia, New Zealand and Japan sailed out to sea in remembrance of the original convoy.
The City of Albany estimates about 60,000 people descended on the region during the weekend.
The hope now is that Albany and the Anzac legend will be forever intertwined.