EMPIRE INTERCESSION DAY: observed throughout the British Empire
Sunday 3 January 1915 was set aside by Allied countries as the first National Day of Intercession to pray for peace and the safe return of soldiers fighting in the First World War.
One hundred years later, St Bede’s parish at Semaphore will pay homage to the ANZAC’s, recreating the traditional wartime service in an Australian first.
The St Bede’s History Committee has worked to recreate the spirit of the event, to be held on Sunday 3 May at 10am as part of South Australia’s History Festival.
“We want to conduct the full service as it was first held,” Senior Lay Assistant, Colin Lehmann says.
“Members of the Victorian Society and Costumers Guild will dress in period attire and military personnel will be in uniform, including a Light Horse mounted soldier from the Barossa Light Horse Historical Association.
“We want to get the locals involved, as well as anyone who may have a connection with St Bede’s or is interested from a historical perspective.”
Traditional treats will be served, ANZAC biscuits, scones and Jubilee cake, and the Choir will sign the original anthems and hymns.
The History Committee will also mark the Anzac Centenary with a special exhibition of military artefacts from Friday 1 May to Monday 4 May.
The RSL, the Military Vehicles Museum, the State Library and the Red Cross are among more than ten groups involved.
The Rev’d Ken Buchez, who will perform the service, says the day will not only honour the past but serve as a reminder of the present.
“It’s about reflecting on the futility of war and the pain of war,” he says.
“There’s a tendency in Australian culture to almost glorify war sometimes.
“The service is a poignant reminder of ‘the war to end all wars’ that didn’t end all wars.”
Historically, it was intended that the Intercession be held on the first Sunday each year of the conflict by all the major Christian denominations in a display of unity.
On 26 December 1914 The Observer printed: The subjects concerning which special prayer is to be offered are the King, the Empire, our Allies, and our soldiers and sailors.
But services were also held throughout the duration of the War to honour the fallen, and into 1919 as soldiers were still returning home after the armistice.
They were hugely popular in Adelaide, with more than 1,500 people turned away from St Peter’s Cathedral.
Established in August 1878, St Bede’s would have also held the original service.
Semaphore itself is rich in history, and the parish’s honour role initially inspired the History Committee to investigate the area’s significant connection to WWI.
“Of the 188 names on the memorial board, 144 were there when it was first blessed in 1915,” Colin says.
“A number of people from the local district who enlisted to go to the War have military medals and Distinguished Service Orders.
“Then there are local people who joined the Australian Light Horse, and quite a significant number who joined the 10th Battalion which is quite famous as well.”
St Bede’s is full of historical artefacts that are still being unearthed, and exploring the contents of the crypt led Colin to a significant discovery.
“I came across an old, metal tin and inside I found the original National Day of Intercession service sheets for the 3 January 1915, decreed by King George Fifth,” he says.
“I then realised the importance of that and I suggested we perform that service.”For the past two years, the History Committee has been researching the history of the area, combing through birth death and marriage records, to create a database.
“Colin and I have spent a lot of time at the State Library getting all the old records out and scanning them all – about 3000 images,” Committee member, Ross DeGaris says.
“The idea is to try to get that into a database so people can come in and research their history through Semaphore.”
The Committee has also partnered with local schools, creating an ‘adopt a World Ward One hero’ program that will contribute to the RSL’s virtual war memorial.
“We want to make the children aware of the importance of the event as part of the local history,” Colin says.
“And also make them aware that these veterans went away to provide them with the life they have now, that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
Children will be given a name from the honour role and will piece together their story to ensure the ANZAC history lives on.