ANNUAL ANZAC FIELD OF REMEMBRANCE HISTORY
The Anzac Field of Remembrance began in 1952 when Mrs C J Pope, widow of Rear-Admiral C J Pope, RAN, assisted by the War Widows’ Guild, organized the first Field in the grounds of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Mrs Pope conceived the idea of establishing a Field of Remembrance in Sydney, after seeing a similar ceremony held in the old churchyard of St Margaret’s in London, alongside Westminster Abbey. The Very Reverend Dr S Barton Babbage, Dean of Sydney, supported and encouraged the event, and Mrs Pope was involved until her death in 1963, since then the Guild has continued her task.
Each year a Memorial Service is held in St Andrew’s Cathedral several days prior to Anzac Day, followed by Dedication of the Field and the planting of official crosses. The Governor of NSW, who is also the Patron of the Guild, plants the first cross for the Unknown Warrior, followed by representatives from the New Zealand Government, the NSW Government City of Sydney, the three Armed Services, RSL and the War Widows’ Guild.
The Field is then open to associated organisations and members of the public to plant small wooden crosses or tokens, which are available from a kiosk staffed by Guild members.
The Field remains open until sunset on Anzac Day. Throughout the intervening days, hundreds of crosses are planted by the public, providing a quiet and personal way of remembering those who gave their lives in the service of their country. A special closing ceremony is held usually the day after Anzac Day.
For many years, the Field was located in a grassed area to the south of the Cathedral and later in planter boxes filled with grass adjacent to George Street. Due to construction along George Street, the Field of Remembrance has been relocated to Hyde Park South
near the Anzac Memorial, although the Memorial Service is held at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
The Anzac Field of Remembrance has taken place every year since 1952, the same year as Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne. Guild commemorative items are located at St Andrew’s Cathedral: A Visitors Book to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977; Plaques,
registered as NSW War Memorials, located on the base of the flagpole were unveiled by the respective Governors of NSW in 1978 and 2011.
This special commemoration is ours and recognises our loss and our sacrifices as war widows. It enables us to live our lives and support our families without our husbands and partners and reminds us our loved ones still walk beside us today.
“This is our story, a story of love for our husbands, our love for brothers and sisters, love for our families and love for our country.”
Rhondda Vanzella OAM, President, War Widows’ Guild of Australia NSW