Ashburton’s first Anzac Day parade set off from the Drillshed in Burnett Street. Already the departure point of the many farewell parades for men drafted as reinforcements, the Drillshed now saw yet another procession set off.
The Citizens Defence Corps Band (formerly the Temperance Band) and the Salvation Army Band, both with their own ranks reduced by the war, added one more engagement to their many patriotic duties. They led the Ashburton territorials of the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles, Cadets and Boy Scouts, veterans (including men from the Boer war) and returned soldiers.
Curious attention probably centred on the recently returned soldiers, but unfortunately their numbers are unknown. From mid-1915 shiploads of the wounded and sick had begun to reach New Zealand. Ashburton had welcomed its latest returning soldiers just ten days prior.
At the Domain, proceedings got underway. Local dignitaries spoke, followed by a brief religious service, shared among Ashburton’s ministers.
Finally, the principal speech, which the Ashburton Guardian described as “stirring”, was given by William Fraser, Minister of Public Works.
Fraser stressed a wider interpretation of “Anzac” beyond commemoration of the landing to the consequences of the entire campaign and the continuing war (by then centred on the Western Front).
He argued the responsibility of the state to look after families of fallen soldiers and give proper care to those who returned wounded.
Fraser also touched on recruiting. He reminded those who had not volunteered that “to do so was of the utmost importance”. He regretted that nation-wide hundreds of married men had joined the ranks, unable to stand by and “see the gaps not being filled by men who should go.” His words were cheered.
Ashburton had a good record of meeting its quota for draft reinforcements. And in this respect the bravery of the Anzac landing forces – Ashburton men among them – soon saw local enlistments soar as news came through.
With remarkable timing, another 80 men departed in two drafts either side in this anniversary.
After the National Anthem was sung, the parade reformed and marched back to the Drillshed and the crowd departed. Ashburton’s first Anzac Day commemoration was at an end.
Anzac day is still the most important date in our calendar of military commemorations. Since this first Anzac Parade, more than a hundred similar commemorations have followed.
By Brian Pritchard
- A young girl waves a flag Anzac Day Parade progressing along East Street towards the Domain.
- First Anzac parade.
- An advertisement from the Ashburton Guardian advertising the first Anzac day parade