Wherever possible, RSL commemoration ceremonies are encouraged to adhere to a standard order of service.
At the designated moment of the commemoration, the sequence of events for RSL ceremonies is expected to include the following:
The Ode shall be recited by the designated person.
They shall grow not old, (short pause)
As we that are left grow old, (longer pause)
Age shall not weary them, (short pause)
Nor the years condemn, (longer pause)
At the going down of the sun, (short pause)
And in the morning, (longer pause)
We will remember them. (short pause)'
The gathering repeats 'We will remember them.
The Last Post shall be played.
A period of not more than two minutes' silence shall then be observed.
The designated person shall say 'Lest We Forget' and the gathering will repeat 'Lest We Forget'.
Rouse or Reveille shall then be played.
The ceremony concludes. The words 'thank you' shall NOT be spoken until the end of the ceremony.
To Note: Rouse is the bugle call, more commonly used in conjunction with the 'Last Post', often mistakenly called 'Reveille' by those not familiar with it. Although linked to ‘Last Post', ‘Reveille' is seldom used due to its duration.
While the standard form of service is typically followed at regular RSL commemoration ceremonies, occasional variations may occur. However, when the RSL is the organising authority for a commemoration ceremony, efforts should be made to adhere to the specified sequence.
The wearing of medals and decorations during there commemorative events must align with the current Australian Defence Force Policy. This policy covers various events, including commemorative services, such as:
- ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day
- Defence Force parades
- Selected events considered appropriate
Flag ceremonies are integral to the military services, serving as powerful symbols of national identity. It’s crucial to handle flags with the utmost respect and dignity, following specific protocols for raising, lowering, presenting beside other flags, and usage during ceremonies.
For comprehensive information on the Australian National Flag Protocols, please refer to the guidelines available on the Australian Government website.
The Ode, originally composed by Laurence Binyon in 1914 as the fourth verse of his poem “For the Fallen”, gained prominence at commemoration ceremonies held by British Legion soon as World War 1. In 1920, it was officially adopted as The Ode across all British Commonwealth countries.
Following the repetition of the last line of The Ode by those present, the Last Post is sounded as a poignant tribute. The origins of the tradition can be traced back to earlier times when English troops, engaged in European conflicts, would hear Retreat signalling at the end of daylight fighting. Soldiers would then retire to the nearest town or village for the night, guarded by posted sentries. A bulger accompanied the Duty Officer as the marched the sentries around the town. “First Post” was sounded when the initial sentries were posted, while “Last Post” marked the final securing of the camp.
In context of a funeral or commemoration service, the haunting notes of “Last Post” symbolise the conclusion of the fallen soldier’ journey through life
Soon after the end of World War 1, Edward Geroge Honey, a Melbourne journalist in London, found the noisy celebrations of the end of the War unsettling, citing no thought was being given to those who sacrificed their lives that made the celebration, and end of War possible. To commemorate the lives of the Fallen, Honey suggested for people to stand in silence for five minutes, however tests by the Guards soon proved five minutes was too long, encouraging King George V to shorten the length of The Silence to two minutes.
Decades later in 1997, a proclamation was issued by our Governor-General, for The Silence to be shortened to one minute, which is what we observe today.
Serving as the mark of the end of The Silence, and the cue for Reveille to be sounded, Lest We Forget was a phrase adopted for commemoration, serving as a warning that, if the sacrifice of those who died in the war is forgotten, we are likely to repeat the futility and obscenity of armed conflict. Taken from the words of Rudyard Kipling’s hymn, “The Recessional”, Lest We Forget is a warning of what might become of us if we forget the power of The Lord.
Signifying the resurrection of the fallen soldier into the afterlife during commemoration, Reveille is the bugle call which would awaken servicemen and women at the start of the day. There are several Reveille calls, any one of which can be sounded at dawn, while the shorter and more raucous “Rouse” is often used during the day.