ANZAC DAY ADDRESS 2012
COLONEL ROGER WAINWRIGHT (Retd)
Today is not a day to glorify war, (nor to gloat over former enemies). We come together to remember ordinary people and to pay tribute to those who put freedom for others before their own interests.
This day is about the 102,000 Australians lost in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping missions; those tens of thousands of Australians who lie in foreign fields at Gallipoli, in the Somme, the deserts of Libya, in olive groves in Crete, in Singapore, New Guinea, Korea and other places.
We remember those who were lost at sea and fell from the skies; and those who suffered and died as prisoners of war.
As well, today is about remembering our bond with New Zealand because there can be no talk of ANZAC or the ANZAC spirit without New Zealand. New Zealanders were alongside us at Gallipoli and in France and Belgium. They were alongside us in the deserts of Africa, at Kapyong in Korea, in Vietnam and today in Afghanistan. Today we should remember the strong values we share with New Zealand.
The first convoy that departed for the first world war left from Albany WA in Nov 1914, its ships carrying thousands of our soldiers, seamen, airman and nurses from the eastern states as well as our friends from New Zealand.
Only eight days into this first convoy, the RAN had one of the first actions of WW1 when HMAS Sydney, which was protecting the convoy, engaged the German raider, the Emden. The Sydney was hit, but badly damaged the Emden which ran aground at Cocos (Keeling) Island. It was a remarkable victory that enabled all further convoys to sail from Australia without fear of attack.
For many, it was a great adventure from our shores into the unknown. They were leaving behind family and loved ones and sadly, over 61,000 would not see them or the shores of Australia again.
The stories of the early slaughter soon got home and those who signed up in 1916-17, knew there was a fair chance that they would die horribly or be maimed for life in the mud of France or in the dust of Palestine. Regardless they signed up in droves.
Gallipoli occurred when federated Australia was barely 14 years old. The loss of life was so profound that it was the first large scale human tragedy to beset Australia. But from this tragedy, the spirit of ANZAC was born.
In the words of former Governor-General Sir William Deane (GG 1996-2001):
"Though born from the doomed campaign at Gallipoli, the spirit of ANZAC is not really about loss at all. 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."
The Gallipoli campaign lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties including 8,700 who were killed or died of wounds or disease. We remember the deeds and the hell of Pope's Corner, Shrapnel Gully, The Nek, Lone Pine, Plugges Plateau, and Baby 700.
Whilst attention will always focus on the assault landing at Anzac Cove we should not forget the transfer of the 2nd Bde of the Ist Division (with the NZ Brigade) to Cape Helles at the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula in early May 1915.
The 2nd Brigade comprised four Victorian battalions who lost one third of their strength as they attacked the key objective of Krithia. A British officer said of them:
"Their pluck was titanic. They were not men but gods, demons infuriated. We saw them fall by the score. But what of it? Not for one breath did the great line waiver or break. On and up it went, as steady and proud as if on parade. Our men tore off their helmets and waved them, and poured cheer after cheer after those wonderful ANZACS."
The stories of such men inspire following generations, such as the family of 5th Battalions who also had their genesis here in Victoria.
Harry Kelly, a boot maker who enlisted in Melbourne, had landed with the 5th Battalion AIF at ANZAC Cove, 97 years ago today. Harry served with his battalion in France and Belgium. He was wounded in action three times at Pozieres, Guedecourt and at the Battle of Menin Road in Flanders. During the allied offensive of August 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux, Harry Kelly charged 70 yards in front and under intense machine gun fire, bayoneted the machine gun crews, and captured two guns and 12 men. For this and other actions, Sergeant Kelly was recommended for the Victoria Cross. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Another fine soldier of the second generation of the 5th Battalions was Lieutenant Cyril Miles, a Victorian, who enlisted in Bendigo and served throughout World War 2 with the 2/5th Aust Inf Battalion (in the middle east and in New Guinea). In May 1945 he led a fighting patrol called "Miles Force" in the northern area of New Guinea. After several days of heavy fighting a large group of Japanese surrendered to Miles. It was the largest surrender of Japanese land forces to Australians before the armistice. For this and other brave actions at the Battle of Mount Tambu, Lt Miles was awarded the Military Cross.
My generation of 5th battalions is represented here today and I would like to acknowledge the presence of Alan McNulty who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for a series of brave actions during his second tour of Vietnam with 5RAR.
Harry Kelly, Cyril Miles, Alan McNulty and countless others are an inspiration to following generations and symbolize the ANZAC spirit for all Australians, including those in uniform today. Our current ADF members are already enriching this spirit with their own stories from Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history and Australia, sadly, has suffered a high price to its population. Not all battles can be mentioned today but:
at Fromelles in July 1916, the 5th Division suffered 5,533 casualties (1,900 KIA) in a single day, probably the most tragic event in Australia's history.
We should also remember the 10,000 Australian's who served with the RAF Bomber Command during World War 2. Of their number, 3,486 or 35% were killed in air operations.
In Nov 1941, HMAS Sydney was lost off the coast of WA after a battle with the German Raider Kormoran. The entire ships complement of 645 was lost.
This year we also mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle for Singapore (1,000 KIA and 15,000 PW). 2012 also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin and the Papuan campaign with its epic battles of Kokoda and Milne Bay.
What happens when the guns stop firing? The impact of war does not end the day the fighting stops. There is the material damage to towns and cities. And people severely wounded, either physically or mentally, may be scarred for life.
Service in our Defence Force is "unique" as it is the only calling where by law, men and women have a compulsion to put their lives on the line, often in perilous circumstances. That places a moral responsibility on governments to provide adequate support both during and after service.
The upcoming withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will be a modern yardstick for this commitment. After 10 years involvement and multiple tours by many, there are those who are suffering. In past wars, casualties from "battle fatigue" or "shell shock" were seen as weaknesses. Mental wounding is an area that has been stigmatised, but is now being recognised as a genuine consequence of war.
The government must focus on the continued support for the families of those who died during this conflict, rehabilitate those who have returned home maimed, wounded or traumatised; and ensure that compensation is applied fairly and in a timely manner.
There have been some recent media statements about the place of ANZAC Day in contemporary Australia, suggesting that it does not hold the same meaning and is a potential area of divisiveness during the coming Centenary of ANZAC commemorations.
Regardless of the growing multiculturalism and diversity of our nation, we Australians will continue to commemorate ANZAC Day and remember those that gave us our way of life. ANZAC Day is an integral part of our national psyche, and as we move towards the centenary of ANZAC in 2015, there will be a greater sense of national identity. ANZAC Day is instilled in us and will remain part of our lore forever.
Our younger generations are strongly engaged and will carry the legacy of the original ANZAC's into the future. They have been captivated by the endurance of the ANZACS. Each year on this day, thousands of young Australians converge on battlefields in increasingly far flung places to imagine just what they did endure; and to reflect on the tradition which they created.
The qualities of mateship, self-sacrifice, endurance, resourcefulness, legendary courage, unflinching dependability in the most extreme of circumstances. Their boyish enthusiasm and cheeky, larrikin - like attitude to life; continue to inspire the people of this nation and set a standard for us all, to carry into our daily lives.
Today, as well as commemorating Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in all wars and in peacekeeping, we also think about our fellow countrymen and women who right now are serving us so proudly around the world.
It is the duty of all of us to ensure that those who lost their lives in service to our country did not do so in vain. So we should remind ourselves of the inscription seen on war memorials around the world:
"When you go home, tell them of us and say,
Lest We Forget
For your tomorrow, we gave our today"