We join together today to commemorate and pay tribute to those who have loyally and devotedly sacrificed their lives in all the conflicts of war, to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy today.
Never in the 105 years since the Allied forces landed at Gallipoli on what is now known as Anzac Cove, have Australians been asked to summon the stoic resolve, courage and fortitude displayed by these soldiers in our current fight with an unseen enemy.
It is well known that the Allied mission to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany, was tragically met with failure. With an underestimation of the Ottoman military potential and a sense of superiority among the Allies, just before dawn on this day, in 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces landed on the shores of Gallipoli.
The half-light of dawn was favoured, a time when troops were awake, alert and manning their weapons, known as the ‘stand to’. What began as a bold strike ended in a devastating and bloody stalemate that lasted for eight long months.
56,707 Allied troops lost their lives, including 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand, with 302,000 Allied casualties and 250,000 from the Ottoman Empire.
This was the first campaign of the First World War that led to major casualties for our troops, and the defeat had a profound effect on people at home, becoming a symbolic day on which we remember and commemorate our war dead. It has been considered that this event was the beginning of Australian and New Zealand national consciousness.
Nowadays, ANZAC Day goes well beyond the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. It is a day on which we remember and pay tribute to all Australians who have served and died in the various theatres of war, past and present. It has become a symbol for values which Australians so highly treasure; those of mate ship, courage, sacrifice and stoic duty.
Our commemorative services date back to the first Anzac Day in 1916, organised by Queensland Canon David Garland as a non-denominational commemoration by the whole of society, and the date 25th April was then etched in our history. Despite interest waning in the 1960’s and 70’s, Prime Minister’s Hawke and Howard were staunch supporters of the importance of remembrance, and today we are particularly pleased to see younger Australians embrace with reverence and respect, those who have paved the way before us, defending the life we so highly cherish.
Dawn services, the playing of the Last Post and two minutes of silence are a powerful moment for Australians of all cultures and age groups to reflect on the strength and values of those who served. Marches allow troops and later generations to wear the medals of service and bravery and to honour family who so selflessly protected our freedoms.
Lieutenant Colonel and later Turkish President Kemul Ataturk, who oversaw the Ottoman forces at Gallipoli, delivered these words at a memorial in 1934, to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the battlefields.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries, Wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace
after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Today we stop and turn off our busy lives, reflect on the sacrifice of others, pause to consider those around us and how we can serve, and find within ourselves the stoic strength of character to endure our current crisis.
The inscription on the wall of the Sir John Monash Centre in the grounds of the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in northern France perfectly sums up the heritage of ANZAC.
Anzac is not merely about loss.
It is about courage and endurance, and duty, and love of country,
and mateship, and good humour, and the survival of a
sense of self worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.
To all the men and women who have served our nation, there is little we can say that fully reflects our gratitude and our debt to you, because of you we live in a free and fair nation. In a world where right is might, not the other way round, and so instead we simply say: Lest we Forget.