On November 1st, 1914 the first convoy of ships departed from Albany in Western Australia taking over 30,000 troops and 7477 horses from Australia and New Zealand…the ANZACs… to the battlefields of World War One. After training in Egypt, most headed to Gallipoli.
In the convoy were 26 Australian transport ships and ten New Zealand transport ships escorted by three warships. The second convoy that left on December 31st, 1914 was smaller and unescorted comprising of fifteen Australian ships and three new Zealand ships.
For many, Albany was their last glimpse of Australia and the people of Albany commemorate this day. This year, being the one hundredth anniversary, huge celebrations are planned that will lead into next years Anzac Day Centenary.
A dawn service taking place on November 1st at Albany’s ANZAC Peace Park overlooking King George Sound where the ships were moored will remember those who left on this day and those who did not return.
The Anzac Peace Park at Mount Clarence was commemorated in 2010 in readiness for the anniversary.
The large reliefs at the entrance to the park reminded me of similar drives we made last year as we toured Australia’s War Memorials in the Somme Valley in France after the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux.
The Avenue of Honour then takes you further into the park. The trees lining the drive have plaques beneath them in memory of soldiers lost in later wars.
You then need to take the steps to the top of Mt Clarence where the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial stands. If you are unable to manage the steps, you can be dropped at the top of a side road near the memorial but there is no parking here.
As you climb the steps, take time to read the words on the plaques that are dotted along the way that tell of life on the ships and at war.
These particular excerpts were written by AB ‘Banjo’ Patterson, one of Australia’s most famous poets and songwriters who wrote the man from Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda. He was on the first convoy as a journalist, continuing on to London after the troops disembarked in Egypt.
Then there is a stir in the stern, a gliding, oily rush of water, which tells us that the screw is turning at last.
Now is seen a very pretty evolution as the the leader draws out past the lighthouse and turns sharply to the west, rising to the lift of the open sea, and as each big vessel clears the gateway of the harbour she, too, swings round to dip her head into the waves with a sort of enjoyment at being once more on the trail.
Suddenly, we too realise that we are underway. So silently does the anchor come in, so smoothly do the turbine engines work, that only the sailors on board know that we are moving, till the rocky headlands begin to glide past us and we pass the waiting shops of our own fleet.
It is the most wonderful sight that an Australian ever saw.”
The first of these excerpts was written by Albert Facey, the author of one of Australia’s most famous books, A Fortunate Life, who fought in Gallipoli.
We climbed the steps in silence…the words we had read along the way still echoed in our minds until we reached the memorial.
The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial is of an Australian mounted soldier helping a New Zealand soldier who’s horse has been wounded. This is a copy of the statue that once stood at Port Said which was damaged in the Suez Crisis of 1956. The salvaged masonary was bought back to be incorporated in the this reconstruction.
Wander higher to the Padre White Outlook and you will be rewarded with fabulous views over Albany and King George Sound. Padre Arthur Ernest White was an army chaplain who fought with the 44th battalion AIF and conducted the first ever dawn service which took place here on Anzac Day, April 25th 1923 and the placing of a wreath in the waters of King George Sound, a tradition that continues today. This lookout is dedicated to him.
As you descend the stairs from the Padre White Lookout, you will notice a lone pine tree on the left…the Lone Pine Memorial
This pine tree was planted in 1974 at the 50 year celebrations of the departure of the troops.
When the troops landed at Gallipoli, they saw a lone pine tree on the hill. It was also the scene of a major attack where 2000 Australians were killed. Two soldiers bought back some of the pine cones from the tree and from these six trees were grown.
Nearby, on Mount Adelaide stands The National Anzac Centre which will be opened on November 1st. It was still undergoing a few finishing touches when we were there but it certainly looks to be a magnificent building with glorious views over the Atatürk Channel and King George Sound.
Also here is the Princes Royal Fortress Military Museum, a collection of old restored buildings housing memorabilia from the 19th Light Horse Regiment
Down on the foreshore, The Pier of Remembrance is to be found near the Albany Entertainment Centre. On the handrail of this boardwalk are the names of the troop ships and their escorts that left on the both convoys.
This will be an exciting time to be in Albany. Commemorations for the Anzac Day Centenary take place from October 31st to November 2nd. They will include a Royal Australian Navy Sunset Ceremony, the Commemorative Service, the opening of the National Anzac Centre, a Troop March, a symbolic departure of naval ships from the Royal Austrlian Navy and the New Zealand navy, and a Naval Ship Open Day.
The ships arrived in ones, twos and three, till at last the fleet was gathered. There they swung at anchor for five clear days while water and coal were taken in by the vessels that required them. Each day there was a report that we were about to sail on the following day, but day after day passed and no move was made by any of the ships. At last on Saturday , October 31, word passed round in the mysterious way in which word does pass round at sea that the transports would be leaving the next morning.
All hands turned in the serene hope that this at last was the real signal to move.”
Will you be Albany to celebrate this day?
Other articles you may enjoy:
Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneaux