Australian Charge d’Affaires, Mr Allaster Cox
25 April 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, all nations have special days to remember their fallen.
Today, ANZAC Day, is our special day.
A day on which we remember all those who lost their lives in service to their country in times of war.
We are all gathered here in the half-light of dawn this morning to remember the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who today, 103 years ago, embarked on their first major military action during the First World War.
Those who landed on Gallipoli had high hopes of a quick victory and capture of a vital sea route through the Dardanelles but instead left eight months later, shattered and beaten.
The loss of life was immense.
Some 11,400 ANZACs lost their lives during the campaign. More than 24,100 were wounded.
All up, more than 45,000 Allied soldiers were killed.
For Australia, a young nation, only 15 years old as a federated state; a country still finding its feet in the world, the loss of more than 8,000 young – and some of them were very young – hit particularly hard.
Just the following year, 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through London to commemorate the campaign.
In Sydney, convoys of cars carried soldiers wounded in Gallipoli and their nurses. In Egypt, Australian troops also gathered to remember the fallen.
So began a tradition that has been repeated each year since.
Now, ANZAC Day is a day on which Australians and New Zealanders gather - wherever they are in the world - to commemorate not just the events of Gallipoli but all those who have lost their lives in military or peacekeeping operations.
Across Australia, ceremonies will take place in communities big and small.
In Canberra, our nation’s capital and in major cities tens of thousands of Australians will gather, while in small country towns, small groups will come together to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
In Indonesia – a country that forged its independence in the years following World War Two – services are being held across the archipelago, from Papua and Ambon in the East to Bandung and Jakarta in the West.
Today, however, is a particularly significant ANZAC Day because it marks one hundred years since the end of the World War One, the Great War, a conflict that touched Australia like no other.
From a population of fewer than 5 million, more than 400,000 men enlisted.
More than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.
Today, at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux in France, thousands of Australians will gather for the opening of the John Monash Centre.
Sir John Monash is one of Australia’s greatest soldiers, an engineer of great accomplishment and public figure of great integrity. He achieved a great deal often against significant personal odds and challenges.
One of the first under fire at Gallipoli in 1915, he was later sent to the Western Front where, as Major General, he took command of the mighty 3rd Division.
He and his troops were involved in some bloody battles, including the Battles of Messines, the third battle of Ypres and Polygon Wood.
In 1918, Monash became corps commander of Australian forces, playing a pivotal role in the final stages of the war.
One of his most famous victories was at the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918.
In just 93 minutes, the Allies (including an American unit) under Monash’s leadership defeated the Germans, seizing the northern French town, the first in a series of victories for Allied forces that ultimately ended the war and cemented Monash’s reputation as a skilful planner and brilliant tactician.
In recognition of his great service Monash was knighted on the battlefield by King George V, the only soldier to be so honoured in 200 years to that time.
After the war, Monash served as a prominent engineer and civic leader and was head of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. On his death in 1931, around 300 000 people came out to witness his funeral in Melbourne – the largest crowd for a state funeral to that time.
Today, as we know, many great national institutions are named for him, including Monash University and many others. He was a true servant of the people – a person we should all aspire to emulate in our own ways.
The John Monash Centre to be opened today by the Prime Minister will continue to tell the story of Monash and the Australians on the Western Front during the First World War.
Sometimes harrowing, often moving, the experience of war is a story that deserves to be shared.
It’s essential that future generations of Australians – and indeed people from all countries – do not forget the events of the past so that they are in a better position to shape the future and to remember the destructiveness of war.
Over the years, the ANZAC legend has come to have a powerful effect on how we see ourselves, how we see our place in the world and how we define ourselves as a nation.
It’s a day Australians pause to commemorate and thank all those Australians who have served their countries overseas and it’s a day that we reflect on the many different meanings of war.
I invite you to do the same today.
LEST WE FORGET