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Catafalque Party at the East Timor ANZAC Day dawn service, April 2010

ANZAC DAY in East Timor

With the Australian and New Zealand forces set to depart East Timor by early 2013, this could be your last opportunity to commemorate ANZAC day with serving soldiers. A rare opportunity you shouldn’t miss, unless of course you are not from Australia, New Zealand or Turkey then you should stop reading now and we’ll see you back here next week!

Dawn service at the base

It’s eerie enough to be walking the streets of Dili in the early hours of the morning, but that’s not half of it, it’s cold and we are wearing jackets! And no, we aren’t on our way to a party, we are headed to the ANZAC Day dawn service held at the army base in Dili. On arrival, we have to negotiate our way around the cars which are double-parked and line the entire road around the entrance. It’s a big turnout.Just as we get into our standing positions (with a good view of the microphone, rows of troops and the flag poles) the service begins. You can’t help but feel a little insignificant as the troops are ordered to “stand to” and we follow suit for the two minutes’ of  silence, but then again, that’s part of the reason why we are here.

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Postcard from 1914 – Turkish Cavalry

The wreaths are laid and speeches are given before it’s time to sing the anthems. The Australian and New Zealand renditions do not compare to the lone Turkish man (the best kebab maker in town) belting out the words to the Turkish anthem.

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Men and Women the Australian Defence Force, serving as part of the International Stabalisation Force, salute as the Australian National Anthem is played as part of the ANZAC Day dawn service held in Dili, April 2010
To our surprise, we are allowed to eat breakfast in the soldiers’ mess hall. I hate to say it, but this was one of the highlights, because they had fresh egg and bacon rolls, strawberry milk and even hot cross buns! An absolute luxury of a feast in East Timor.As the sky breaks with the light of the sun rising, I think to myself  ‘I’m going to get up early every day so I can see such a beautiful natural sight’, but I’m ashamed to say, it’s already been another year and this Wednesday (ANZAC Day) will be the first time I’ve done it again.2012 Anzac Day Dawn Service in Dili, East Timor
Time: 5:30am sharp and concluding at 6:30am
Location: HPOD (Bairo Pite) behind the Presidential Palace
Don’t forget: your ID, camera and your best singing voice

Other things to do

Make a trip up to the Dare Memorial: Cafe and Museum

Walk, ride or drive up to the Dare Memorial and enjoy the panoramic views of Dili. The site is a memorial to the  Australian and East Timorese’s who fought together against the Japanese occupation of East Timor during World War II.
“In February 1942, responding to the arrival of Allied troops in Timor, Japanese troops landed in Dili and Kupang. For over a year, two Australian Companies fought a guerrilla war against the occupying Japanese troops, with the support of the Timorese population and some Portuguese colonial officials. Until the end of World War Two, in August 1945, the Japanese controlled the island of Timor, and the Timorese suffered terrible reprisals for helping the enemy. An estimated 40.000 to 50.000 Timorese lost their lives during this period.”  Secretário de Estado da CulturaThe café is usually only open on the weekends, but on ANZAC Day, you might be lucky. Whether the café is open or not you can still view the small photographic exhibition and the short five minute DVD. The DVD is a must and I can guarantee you’ll be hard pressed not to shed a few tears by the end of it.

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Postcard – The Australian Infantry

Watch some sport and raise your glass

Later in the afternoon there should be friendly and animated AFL game against the NZ, Australian soldiers and expats and East Timorese. Jusk ask one of the soldiers’ where to go… And, to top the day off, head to the beach and sit back and relax with a hard earned beer.ANZAC Day in East Timor is a day you will surely remember!
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Capt Sam Zammit, Mr Owen Cooper, Lt Dave Hornigold and ISF Kangaroos get involved in a messy tackle against the Crockodiles – a mainly expat Aussie team based in Dili.
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Beer coaster – Lest We Forget
Thanks to the Australian Department of Defence for giving us permission to use their striking photographs for this blog post. You can view more of their images from ANZAC Day in East Timor, 2010 here.

The older images, postcards and beer coaster, were taken from my Mum’s amazing collection. She’s got a wonderful little blog of her own called, ‘Old Postcard Messages’ so you can see more of her treasures there.