Australia’s last living link to the first Anzac Day dawn service has died

Joan Bayly (centre) aged about 7, with sisters Kathleen (left) and Jocelyn. Image: Courtesy of her family.

Joan Bayly, the last living link to the first Anzac Day dawn service in Australia, has died at Albany, Western Australia. She was 94.

Bayly was six years old when her father, Jim Dodds, a bank manager and a veteran of WWI, took her hand one morning in 1930 when it was still dark.

Her father, who was gassed in the Great War and then became a prisoner of war for 18 months, gave in to his daughter’s pleadings to be allowed to attend the new dawn service.

Joan, who until the day she died referred to her father as Daddy, said: “I promised I would be very good.”

They followed Anglican priest Arthur White, who also served in France, up Mt Clarence in Albany, Western Australia.

Mt Clarence overlooks King George Sound where a fleet of ships gathered to take Australian troops to the Great War. They left on November 1, 1914, and for many, Albany was their last glimpse of Australian soil.

While walking up the hill, Joan could hear the adults talking about soldiers and ships.

And she also remembers the sharp ends of the undergrowth scratching at her clothes as she walked to the top of the hill to look out over the water.

Joan Bayly later in life. Image: Courtesy her family.

“To my amazement there were no soldiers and no ships,” she said in an ABC interview in 2015.

St John’s Church in Albany, the first consecrated church in Western Australia, has a record of the dawn service in its registry book.

There is also a stone plaque commemorating the “first Anzac Day dawn service in Australia” on April 25, 1930. (EDS: There is a discussion on the first ANZAC dawn service HERE)

And on Mt Clarence there is a memorial seat in the name of Private Dodds, Joan Bayly’s father, at the Desert Mounted Corp Memorial.

Albany is also home to National Anzac Centre which overlooks King George Sound from which more than 41,000 departed Australia for the Great War.

Joan Bayly leaves three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

The first Anzac convoy departing King George Sound in 1914,. Image: by A G Sands, courtesy of the Western Australian Museum