The Anglican church of St John the Evangelist was the first to be consecrated in WA. The ceremony was conducted by Bishop Augustus Short on October 25, 1848. Although Short was the Bishop of Adelaide, his vast diocese included the whole of Western Australia, which then had just eight clergymen, four church buildings, with five under construction, one parsonage and one school.
Building began on the church in 1841, with much of the work carried out by British convicts.
On February 24, 1918, Padre Ernest White conducted a requiem mass at St John’s for soldiers killed during WW1. Following the service, White and several members of his flock walked to the summit of Mt Clarence overlooking King George Sound where troopships had gathered before sailing to Egypt and then Gallipoli. White was only in Albany briefly, having recently returned to Australia after serving as chaplain to the 44th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.
He returned 11 years later when in September 1929 he was appointed rector of Albany and the following year began the ongoing Anzac Day ceremony by celebrating a dawn Eucharist at St John’s followed by the congregational walk to Mt Clarence. At the top of the mount he read The Ode, taken from English poet Laurence Binyon’s elegy For The Fallen, while a boatman simultaneously cast a wreath into the harbour.
In the church’s register an entry reads: Record of service, Holy Communion - 30 (attended). Arthur E. White conducted the service. One pound three and threepence (collection). In the margin is written; Procession to Memorial - Wreaths laid - Collection for distressed soldiers' fund - First dawn service held in Australia.
The service continued until 1939, the year after White left Albany and was revived at the request of the local RSL in 1949. It was modified in the early 1960s when the Mt Clarence ceremony was replaced by one organised by the RSL after the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial had been erected.