The secret of the ANZAC dawn service


Have you ever wondered how the ANZAC day dawn service started?  Did it occur spontaneously on the 1st anniversary of the landing?  Probably not.

So when did it commence as a national tradition, and how?

I’d never thought about it….that is until yesterday …. when I visited the historic mining village of Herberton.

Nestled amongst the rain-forests in the Atherton Tablelands west of Cairns, the village is full of surprises.
possum valley-80

It was no surprise to discover an excellent mining
museum and mine-site tours celebrating the community’s tin and copper mining history….



….But, these things were surprises!


  • a spy camera museum ( the spy equipment is amazing, but it’s just a bait to lure you in – the museum collection across the history of photography is second to none)

    … and

  • the burial site of the man who conducted the first ANZAC day dawn service and first uttered the words

“as the sun rises and goeth down, we will remember them”

              at an ANZAC service.

Canon Arthur Ernest (Padre) White was an Anglican Minister who served with the AIF.  He is credited with instigating the break of dawn service as the sun rose.


The first time, in a small, private requiem mass at St John’s church in Albany in Western Australia on his return in 1918.

After he was appointed the Rector of St John’s church in 1929, he held  a  much larger commemoration as the sun awoke whilst overlooking King George Sound at Albany.

Albany was the last glimpse of Australia, Australian troops saw as they sailed off to war.

At the 1931 dawn service Padre White borrowed the famous line “as the sun rises and goeth down, we will remember them” from Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ …….and thus started a legacy to those who died… a legacy we share in growing numbers every year.

A humble man, Canon wished his tombstone to simply read ‘a Priest’ – it does.

"A Priest"

“A Priest”


Whether I’m on a pleasant holiday exploring old mining towns or working as a

Wills and Estates lawyer, I often think about the legacies people leave behind.

I wonder if Padre White ever thought how his first dawn service would swell into a national day of reflection and commemoration.

What a tribute to the fallen.

What a “gift” to the whole of Australia.

This ANZAC day I will also think of the legacy of this humble priest.


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Disclaimer:  this blog is of a general nature for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should seek specific help for their specific circumstances.