Think Piece: Why do you march?

Source: Ian Smith, published on Thursday 13 April, 2017.

Ian SmithThere are as many reasons for marching on Anzac Day as there are participants in the many Anzac Day marches held throughout the state on Anzac Day. Some march to remember fallen mates, others for reasons of comradeship on a day that evokes memories of their days in uniform. In the Adelaide Anzac Day Commemorative march, one descendant of each person who died during or because of their service is also welcome to march to remember their relative who has died.

The reason we have a march at all is steeped in the traditions of Anzac Day. The morning of Anzac Day is similar in many ways to a military funeral, the outline of which provides the guiding principles for the Anzac Day commemorative events in Adelaide that are coordinated by the RSL-SA’s Anzac Day Committee. The Dawn Service at the National War Memorial represents the funeral service, the commemorative march is akin to the procession to the graveside, and the service at the Cross of Sacrifice at Pennington Gardens symbolises the ceremony at the grave. Many will be aware that the Cross of Sacrifice was funded solely by the women of South Australia who had lost loved ones in the First World War but had no grave at which they could grieve. We should never forget that over 102,000 Australians have died in the service of our country since the Boer War, and Anzac Day is about every Australian who has died in the service of our nation, and the sacrifice they and their loved ones made for us all.

For this reason, the RSL never refers to Anzac Day commemorative events as a “celebration”, or to the march as a “parade”. These are terms that are more appropriate for other events. Like the Dawn Service, the march is a solemn remembrance of those who have fallen in the service of our country and those who have served alongside Australia in many conflicts, particularly the men and women of New Zealand. Participation in the march is restricted to those who have served Australia or those who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us as allies, as well as the descendants I mentioned earlier, who have a section of the march set aside for their involvement. The service at the Cross of Sacrifice is a chance to say a final goodbye to the fallen, and many gather at Pennington Gardens after the march to participate. Apart from the Governor of South Australia, the only groups that place a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice are Legacy youth and war widows, as they are most affected by the loss of loved ones.

Many see the afternoon of Anzac Day as the time to celebrate survival and to enjoy the comradeship of mates. I wholeheartedly agree. That is the time to enjoy the comradeship of those who have also served and the time for many veterans to acknowledge that they are still alive, at times despite their experiences.
If you choose to march, I encourage you to reflect on why you do it and how it connects you to the ultimate sacrifice made by others.

Lest We Forget.


Ian Smith served over 28 years in the Australian Army, approximately half of that time in the Regular Army. This included active service commanding a Military Police company during the Bosnian War whilst on exchange with the British Army. After leaving full time service, he served in the Australian Federal Police. His police service included peacekeeping duties in Cyprus. He served on the Veterans’ Advisory Council from 2009 to 2012, and has been the Chair of the RSL-SA’s Anzac Day Committee since 2015.