Home' Advance In Review : Advance in Review July 2014 Contents I enlisted in the Australian Defence Force
on 26 April 1990. Almost 24 years to the day
after enlistment I was tasked to perform
the bugle calls in Turkey for the 99th
Anniversary of Anzac Day.
I had never been to Gallipoli before, so I
wasn’t sure how I was going to react when
we arrived at Anzac Cove for our first
rehearsal. For some reason the emotional
impact wasn’t as intense as I’d imagined
it would be. I did however gain an instant
respect for the conditions under which the
Anzacs fought. Pictures do not do justice
to the treacherous terrain. The shear
enormousness and abruptness of the
topography has to be witnessed first-hand
to understand the impact it must have had
on our diggers.
The Lone Pine site however was extremely
moving for me. Something about the place
just got to me. This was where some of the
fiercest fighting took place for our troops,
and as a result huge losses were suffered
there. I immediately felt a sense of sadness
and stillness; I was extremely moved and
motivated. To add to the experience, I also
had a little time to see the trenches and
battlefields that are still intact to this day.
In my mind I had prepared thoroughly
for these performances. In the six weeks
leading up to the event I would arrive early
to work, proceed straight out into the middle
of the footy field and run through the bugle
calls six to ten times. I did all of this without
any warm-up, in an attempt to make it
more difficult. To simulate the potential
cold weather, I practiced the calls wearing
just shorts and a T-shirt in my church’s
industrial size fridge. As temperatures on
the Gallipoli Peninsula in April often fall
below zero, I was trying to get as cold as I
could to gain an understanding of what may
happen to me both physically and mentally.
To prepare for fatigue, I seized the moment
when I couldn’t sleep one night. I drove to
the Point Cook Air Force Base at about 4am,
walked straight out into the middle of the
airfield, and with a 25 knot cross-wind ran
through my calls countless times. Again
I did all of this wearing only shorts and a
Sitting in the bus on the way to the Turkish
memorial, I remember feeling that maybe I
had completely underestimated fatigue and
how it would affect me. I still had 36 hours
to go, and I was already tired; really tired.
Sleep opportunities were very limited from
this point on. I remember thinking that I
might not be able to do this. Doubt was
creeping into my thought processes. Maybe
my Point Cook morning wasn’t enough?
Should I have stayed up all night to gain a
true indication of how I would feel? Not a
good place to be psychologically just hours
before the biggest bugle call of my career.
Sleep was what I needed, so I decided from
that moment on I would try to grab as much
rest as I could.
On arrival at Anzac Cove, I remember
feeling a real sense of pride to be a part
of the service. The public was starting to
arrive, and I was amazed at the number of
young adults present. For most of the public
there was nowhere to sleep, but there was
always something going on throughout
night such as documentaries on the large
screens or small musical performances.
At every opportunity I would hit my sleeping
bag to get any rest I could - an hour here
and there sort of thing. I must have had
some sleep, because I actually felt pretty
good when I got up at around 4am. It would
not be long now; my nerves were starting
to ramp up.
The band moved on to the stage at
4.30am. I was lucky as I did not have to
sit on stage, and instead chose to wait
down on the beach. The gentle lapping of
waves, stars glistening and the crescent
moon slowly rising in the east above the
Sphinx... beautiful! The realisation that this
beauty had been marred by the carnage
of war ninety nine years ago brought an
intense sadness upon me. To enhance the
atmosphere the event organisers had gently
lit the water a lovely shade of blue. Yet I
suspect ninety nine years ago the water
would have been a gentle shade of crimson
from the blood of our diggers. I started to
think about my kids - a parent’s point of
view. The ‘not knowing’ must have been
unbearable for parents who never heard
from their children again. Parents lost
children, children lost parents; this must
have been utter hell! It also occurred to
me that I was standing where the Anzacs
could have been injured or killed. This was
extremely moving and motivating for me. I
just wanted to do the best job I could.
I was happy with how things went overall at
Anzac Cove; a good feeling, but obviously
I was not done yet. In my mind though the
Lone Pine Service carried more stress for
Two pre-service sets completed, and I had
ten minutes to move into my position. From
this point on it was mainly psychological.
‘Stand-to’ done and all went well. I now
had a fourty minute wait until the reflective
part of the service. I spent that time in quiet
reflection, as you cannot go to the Gallipoli
Peninsula and not think about where you
are, and what this place represents. This
was a special moment, and it really helped
me prepare emotionally for what I was
about to do.
I never take the performance of the
Last Post for granted. Musically, it is an
extremely simple piece of music, yet the
emotional impact it has on people is often
enormous. I have performed this hundreds
of times in my career and I take every
performance of the Last Post very seriously
and prepare accordingly.
My cue to march into position was at the
completion of the wreath laying music.
Last minute gear check - hat on straight,
uniform in check, bugle empty of any
condensation and mouthpiece in firm. A
deep breath, quick prayer and out I went.
I just wanted to do the best job I could. It did
not have to be note perfect, but the intent to
do so at this point was extremely important
to me. This was a way I could contribute
personally and pay homage to the sacrifices
made by the Diggers.
8,709 Australians lost their lives in the
eight month Gallipoli campaign; that gave
me 8,709 reasons for me to do the best
job I could. This is the reason we were
here; to remember and honour the brave
Australians that gave their lives in these
battles. For this reason it was an immense
honour to be asked to be the bugler for the
2014 Anzac Day Commemoration Services
in Gallipoli. To contribute personally to such
a significant event is truly something I will
cherish for the rest of my life.
Lest we forget.
Sergeant Peter McCracken
A BUGLER’S PERSPECTIVE
Sergeant Peter McCracken sounds the Reveille at the 2014 Anzac Day Dawn Service at Anzac Cove. Photo by Sergeant Christopher Dickson.
SGT Peter McCracken sounds the Last Post during the 2014 Anzac Day memorial service at Lone Pine. Photo by Sergeant Christopher Dickson.
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