Anzac Day - 25 April
The 25th of April marks the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. Thousands lost their lives during the Gallipoli campaign and it had a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home.
The first Anzac Day commemorations were held on 25 April 1916. During the 1920s Anzac Day became established as a national day of commemoration in Australia and New Zealand and later, Anzac Day also served to commemorate those who died in the Second World War. The nature of commemorations are rich in tradition and ritual although they have gone through many changes over the years. 25th April is a now a day on which to remember all those killed in war or peacekeeping and honours returned and serving servicemen and women. In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on Anzac Day as an emblem of remembrance. Since ancient times rosemary has been believed to have properties that improve the memory and is of particularly significance as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Stratford sub Castle has its own traditions for Anzac Day. During the war, and for a short time afterwards, soldiers from the Commonwealth were stationed in the camps around Salisbury Plain. Meningitis and influenza were common and spread amongst the soldiers. Many were transferred to Salisbury Isolation Hospital and some who died there were buried in the churchyard at St Lawrence.
After the war it became a tradition for the children of Stratford School to lay posies on the graves of the Anzac soldiers. The school year now includes a short service of remembrance on 25 April during which the children lay the posies, a wreath is laid on the Cross of Sacrifice and the Australian Aboriginal Flag, an official flag of Australia is raised at St Lawrence Church in remembrance of the Aboriginal Australian soldiers buried in the Commonwealth War Graves.
Anzac graves; the Aboriginal flag flying from the tower of St Lawrence Church in 2018; children from Stratford School laying posies in 2019; Aboriginal flag.
In 2020, Coronavirus social distancing restrictions prevented the school from holding their service. However, some of the traditions at St Lawrence were maintained. Sprigs of rosemary were laid on the Anzac graves and short commemorative prayers were delivered over the War Graves. A wreath of rosemary & three poppies (one each for the army, navy and air force), was laid on the Cross of Sacrifice and the Australian Aboriginal flag flew from the tower.
Further reading on this website:
The message below was sent to the village website by a WW1 researcher in Australia in October 2020. The Australian website mentioned has published photographs of the soldiers, very much of interest to our own researchers here in Stratford sub Castle.
"I am emailing from Australia & I research Australian WW1 War Graves in the UK.
I have just completed research on the 26 Australian WW1 Soldiers buried in St Lawrence’s Churchyard at Stratford-sub-Castle & thought you may be interested in including a link to where my research can be viewed.
My research can be found following the link below to the page for Stratford-sub-Castle. The website was setup & is owned by Beth Page (also an Australian) who sourced most of the headstones photos on the website. My research compliments her headstone photos.
The headstone photos & photos of the Churchyard were kindly taken for me by request by The Venerable Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum in 2020
Of the 26 Australian WW1 Soldiers buried in the Churchyard at Stratford-sub-Castle - 23 died at Isolation Hospital, Salisbury. 15 of those had died from Cerebro Spinal Meningitis & 3 from Cerebro Spinal Fever."