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The first ANZAC dawn service in Senegal, Africa.

Our daughter Louisa and family are currently living in Dakar, Senegal, where Louisa is Special Counsel with the law firm Geni & Kebe. Louisa’s husband is the National Director of World Vision for Senegal, hence their location.

Late last year Louisa was disappointed, not only for herself but for her three young sons,  that with the centenary of the ANZAC landing coming up that there would be, not surprisingly, no ANZAC ceremony in Dakar.  So she set about doing something about it.

Our grandsons attend the International School of Dakar who offered their grounds for the service. The New Zealand teacher there said he would organise the facilities at the school for the ceremony. An American on the staff said he could play The Last Post. The school’s canteen said they could provide the ANZAC ‘gunfire’ breakfast and a resident Aussie with a scheduled trip back to Australia, brought back the required bottle of Bundaberg Rum duty-free. The Australian Embassy – located in nearby Ghana – said they would send a message to be read out and financial support. The Turkish Embassy said they would send a representative to read Atatürk’s letter to the Mothers of the Anzacs.  The British Embassy said their Ambassador would attend and supply a wreath.  The French and Canadian Embassies came on board and the United States Embassy said they would like to show their respects too.  An Aussie mining engineer dug out his Two Up kip and pennies and set about teaching the rules.  Anne and I visited Dakar in March and brought over a heap of ANZAC lapel badges and poppies.

With everybody’s cooperation it all came together. Louisa gave the opening and closing addresses and on a personal note she ended with a quote from her great grandfather’s WW1 book “Padre Gault’s Stunt Book”, which contained motivations he wrote for the troops whilst serving with them. 

Here is an extract of the report Louisa sent to the Australian Embassy in Ghana afterwards:

Close to 60 people attended, including 20 kids. We are so glad that our children will have had the opportunity to be part of an event for the Centenary of Anzac Day. Our group included families living in Dakar and some who had travelled in from more remote postings in Senegal for the occasion, our 9 official dignitaries from the UK, Turkish, US, French and Canadian embassies, plus some Irish, Americans and a Canadian who had ties through their relatives to the battles of the World Wars. We also welcomed some visitors to Dakar, including an ex-Australian Air Force officer, now flying with Emirates, in town for just 2 days and who wore his service medals with pride.

The Turkish Ambassador gave a thoughtful and passionate speech and read Atatürk's letter to the Mothers of the Anzacs. The British Ambassador read Australian Ambassador Adamson’s speech beautifully and the sentiments were very well received by our gathering. The Aussie and Kiwi kids living in Dakar commenced the wreath laying, with the Embassy representatives then laying wreaths. The flowers made a spectacular tribute to our fallen soldiers, sitting underneath the hanging Australian, New Zealand and Turkish flags.

Australian and New Zealand accents delivered our prayers and readings wonderfully! And we were so very lucky in that the American music teacher from the International school volunteered to play his trumpet for the Last Post. He had been the bugler for Anzac Day services when he had lived in Laos and wanted to support our event. He has told me a couple of times that he hasn't found any communities as special as the Australian ones.

The serious and special service over, we then enjoyed a great, relaxed breakfast together. The gunfire was in our coffees and the two up started, much to the kids' delight! You'll be pleased to hear that many people commented how great it was that the High Commission had funded the breakfast, making us feel very much part of the worldwide commemoration of the Centenary. The last guests didn't leave until it was nearly midday, so I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all!

Attendees at the first ANZAC dawn service in Senegal at the International School of Dakar

(photos courtesy Bruno Col and John Wishart)

A very rewarding outcome for all those involved.

Roger Gibbs