The Dawn Service observed on Anzac Day has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today.
The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers’ eyes and upon the arrival of the sun. Easterly facing forces were at a disadvantage from the glare of the rising sun. From the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favoured strategic times for an attack.
Because of the disadvantage in vision from the rising sun, soldiers in defensive positions were required to be woken up in the dark. Soldiers awoken before dawn meant that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons. This was and still is known as ‘Stand-to’. The ‘Stand-to’ was then repeated at sunset.