Early Deni Anzac Days

March 10, 2018

The 1916 Deniliquin service. Photo courtesy Deniliquin & District Historical Society.

This year marks 100 years since the Deniliquin RSL Sub-branch was formed. Plans are underway to celebrate the milestone in June. A series of historical articles has been prepared by Sub-branch member Laurie Drennan leading up to the local anniversary.

One year after the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli, April 25 was commemorated in both Britain and Australia.

In London, 2000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets followed by a service at Westminster Abbey attended by King George V and Queen Mary.

Marches were held in most Australian capital cities.

In Sydney, 4000 returned servicemen marched to a ceremony at the Town Hall.

A much smaller commemoration service was held outside the Deniliquin Town Hall, captured by photographer Charles Whiting.

The Deniliquin Mayor presided over the ceremony which turned out to be more a recruiting drive than a memorial service.

Although the fallen were mentioned, there were many enthusiastic appeals made for all eligible men to enlist.

Presumably a service in 1917 followed similar lines but by April 1918 the Deniliquin Branch of the RS&SILA was up and running and local returned servicemen would start to influence the way Anzac Day was marked.

The first mention of Anzac Day in the branch minutes was April 11, 1918 when Sergeant Major Pattinson from Bendigo urged the branch to use the day to ‘‘raise moneys’’ (sic).

The branch decided to hold a ‘‘euchre and dance evening’’ on April 25 and ‘‘pictures’’ on the following night.

The next month’s meeting passed a motion giving ‘‘thanks to the ladies of the town for their generous support for the ANZAC effort’’.

In 1919 it was decided to hold a Gymkhana on April 23 and to sell badges.

No mention was made of a service but then, as it still is today, the service is a civic ceremony run by council.

By 1920 the branch was considering ‘‘a suitable way to mark Anzac Day’’.

The result was a sports meeting and dance and euchre at night.

These arrangements remained in place for the next few years with addition of a ‘‘laying of a wreath at the Memorial’’ in 1923 and an ‘‘ANZAC Re-union on every ANZAC Day’’ beginning in 1924.

This reunion included a dinner which was later moved to Anzac Eve.

Finally on April 20, 1925 it was decided to have members meet at the clubrooms at 10.45am and march to the Memorial Gates for a service beginning at 11am.

Anzac Day in Deniliquin was now much as it is today. There is, however, some significant changes to the march such as the inclusion of community groups and the band.

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