Prayer and remembrance
24 April 2018
The Australian Army’s Principal Chaplain, Brigadier Darren Jaensch, will lead the prayers at one of the biggest Anzac Day ceremonies in the world this year: the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux in France.
The padre will read the Prayer of Remembrance, Prayer for Peace and the Final Blessing to an expected audience of 9000 people at the Australian National Memorial, set amid 2100 graves of World War I soldiers at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.
The audience will include His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, as well as the Prime Ministers of Australia and France and the descendants of Australian diggers who fought and died on the Western Front.
The service will also be watched live on television by thousands of Australians around the world.
Chaplain Jaensch said he felt truly humbled by the honour.
“I have had the privilege of visiting some of the battlefields and cemeteries dotted throughout this region of France over the past week and have been struck by the sheer magnitude of sacrifice and hardships suffered by soldiers on both sides of the war,” Chaplain Jaensch said.
“I have also been humbled by the genuine gratitude and love demonstrated by the people who live here, towards the Australian soldiers who fought and died on their soil and for their freedom.
“Despite the fact that 100 years has passed, the French are still flying Australian flags through their towns and showing heart-felt appreciation for what our ancestors did in this place, and that’s very moving.”
The 2018 Dawn Service will not only commemorate the lives of all Australians who have served and died in all conflicts, but will also coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
“It is a little bit hard to look at the plush fields here in the Somme region and imagine the destruction and devastation that defined the landscape a century ago,” Chaplain Jaensch said.
“But it’s important that we remember what the soldiers so readily gave up for an unselfish cause.
“These Aussie diggers volunteered to come to the other side of the world, to fight an enemy they knew little about, to defend the freedom of strangers and to have the backs of their mates.
“Many of these men never returned home to know the joys they fought so bravely to safeguard.
“For that alone, they deserve to be remembered.”
Following the Dawn Service, Chaplain Jaensch and a small delegation of Australian Defence Force personnel will march through the French town of Bullecourt, where they will conduct another service at the Digger Memorial.
This year marks the final year in the Australian Government’s four-year-long Centenary of Anzac commemorative program, which has marked the 100-year anniversaries of significant events involving Australian soldiers over the four-years of World War I.