ANZAC DAY SERVICE – 2018
Tuesday 1 may 2018
Welcome and good morning.
It is impressive to see so many of you who have come here to commemorate what is a significant day in our national consciousness. Today we reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who have served our nation in conflicts past and present and its significance to us and our way of life.
We gather to respect and remember the sailors soldiers and airmen and women who have served our Country in War and Peace: We are not here to glorify war, we are here to reflect on the almost incomprehensible sacrifice of so many young lives in so many conflicts that Australians have been involved and recognise the service of all.
But why ANZAC Day? – Why is this significant over 100 years later?
Little did the soldiers who landed on the 25th of April 1915 imagine that what they were to embark on would become the thing of legend? And from the crucible that forged that Legend, the ANZAC Spirit would rise and become an important part of the Australian culture and psyche.
So over 100 years later we need to ask what was the landing at Gallipoli all about? Who were the ANZACS? Why did they come to symbolise the epitome of the Australian and New Zealand fighting spirit? What relevance does ANZAC Day have to us today?
Most of us are aware that at dawn on 25th April 1915, 16000 Australian & New Zealanders Army Corps surged ashore, at the foot of rugged cliffs on the Dardanelles Peninsula, in Turkey. The first wave that stormed ashore consisted of the Third Brigade of the AIF including the famous Western Australian 11th Bn. From the very start, confusion reigned supreme and this poor state of affairs continued for most of the campaign.
The idea for the campaign was Churchill’s. His intent was to open up the Dardanelles to give allied shipping access to the Black Sea, to bring help to RUSSIA who was fighting Germany on the Eastern Front, and perhaps force TURKEY out of the war.
It was - historians say - an ill-conceived campaign in pursuit of vague objectives, premised on; an under-estimation of the military prowess and character of the Turkish soldier, and of the tactical advantages they held.
Our soldiers were the cream of Australia and New Zealand – The ANZACs the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. All of them were volunteers they were the fittest and best men our fledgeling nation could provide – They committed themselves without hesitation to the nobility of their cause, and fought with great courage, skill and audacity in a battle that they could never have imagined.
Their actions and deeds were amplified and sometimes exaggerated by the press of the day this started the Legend of The ANZAC: The image of a Tall Bronzed fighting man from the bush emerged. This was not necessarily a true reflection of who they were and is certainly not a reflection of our forces today.
In the eight months which followed their first landing, some 50,000 ANZACS were committed to the battlefront before withdrawing. When the last of them was withdrawn as winter set in, more than 11,000 ANZACs lay dead, 8,600 Australians: alongside over 36,000 British, French and Indian Comrades and unknown number Turkish soldiers estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.
In the end, the Gallipoli Campaign was a disastrous defeat, and the ANZACs were forced to withdraw.
So why do we commemorate ANZAC DAY?
We must remember at the time that Australian and New Zealand were fledgeling nations in existence for just over 14 years. To put this into context Australia and New Zealand did not exist as Countries when the men who fought at Gallipoli were born. They were born in the Colonies of Western Australian, Tasmania Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Here they came together as Australians for the first time on the world stage. They knew that they would be judged by their commitment, their courage, and turn their new Country would be judged.
It was their character: the sacrifice, the determination, the belief and the comradeship, that they displayed which would set the standard that would inspire their countrymen for generations to come.
General Sir John Monash described the character of the Australian soldier. “His bravery was founded upon his sense of duty to his unit, comradeship to his fellows, emulation to uphold his traditions and a combative spirit to avenge his hardships and sufferings upon the enemy.”
SO clearly the achievements of the original ANZACS are not to be measured by victory on the battlefield. The Allies could not defeat the Turks and as a result, were forced to withdraw. But it was on those far away shores in a foreign and exotic land the Legend of ANZAC the Spirit emerged. It is this Spirit that was inspired by the deeds and actions of future troops.
The characteristics that emerge and resonated from the ANZAC SPIRIT are sacrifice, courage (both moral and physical), mateship, loyalty, commitment, dedication, duty, respect and tradition
On every 25th of April since 1915, Australians at home and abroad have gathered to commemorate the actions of every one of our service men and women, not just those ANZACs who died on that day. We remember on this day those who served and fell in both world wars, on the Sea Land and Air, and in other conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember and are thankful those that have served and are currently on actions and operations such as Somalia, Rwanda, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, or operations to the north of Australia. They have all contributed to establish our peaceful nation through their service.
It was the ANZAC Spirit which gave us pride in our Services our people, not in war. It gives Australia the belief that when put to the test we would not yield and would not fail.
The men and women who forged the ANZAC Spirit and the subsequent generations sailors soldiers and airmen and women made sure that those who lead them earned their respect. They all understood the values of independence, freedom and fairness and - above all - possessed a willingness to defend these things.
Because freedom only survives as long as there are people are willing to defend it.
This is the ANZAC Spirit handed down to us and ours to pass onto future generations.
If we look to the example of the ANZACS in our modern world for inspiration we can learn from it. Look after your mates and be loyal, do the right thing, do your duty regardless of the personal consequence, and have the courage to say and do what you believe to be right and resist what you know to be wrong.
It is easy to give lip service to the ANZAC Spirit but it is much harder to live up to. If we lose touch with the values imbued by the ANZAC Spirit, we lose all that goes with it.
ANZAC day is much more than a just commemoration of a single historical event. Its spirit embodies all the actions of all Australians who have served their country in all of the Services. It is an important time to reflect on why we as a society enjoy the luxury and comfort we consider to be normal.
Think about why we have the freedom to voice our opinions, elect and change our government in a peaceful and democratic manner and live in a free and prosperous society. These freedoms have been and currently are defended by service men and women who are prepared to serve their Nation wherever and however the Government of the day sees fit. They are due to a great extent to the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone before us and the price that they were willing to pay to secure this for our and future generations.
As you look around you will see many people wearing medals. They could be young or old, in uniform or in civvies it could be a young Mum of three pushing a pram or an old man with a walking stick. They have all served their country with pride and a duty imbued into them by the ANZAC Spirit.
So why is ANZAC Day Important: because it is an opportunity to reflect, remember and be thankful for the service of others. As a society we not only have a responsibility to respect, remember and honour them, but have a duty to care for all those who have returned and go amongst us with the greatest compassion and humility.
Lest we forget.