Australian Office

2014 ANZAC DAY speech


Good Afternoon. I would like to welcome you to the Australian Residence: Ambassadors and Representatives, colleagues, friends of Australia, New Zealanders and my fellow Australians.

Today, 25 April, is a special day for Australians and New Zealanders, for many reasons.

It is a day when we remember our fallen in war, beginning with those who fell on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

It is a day when we remember their sacrifice and pain, their losses and joys.

It is a day when we contemplate our national consciousness since 1915 in both Australia and New Zealand, and the role that the Gallipoli campaign played in the process of nationhood.

It is also a day, when in the silent garden here, we remember the cost of war and commit ourselves to striving for peace.

So as well look back to the battlefields of 1915 in Turkey we think of all these things.

Australia and New Zealand were new countries in 1915 - Australia gaining dominion status and nationhood in 1901 and New Zealand the same in 1907. How did these young countries come to send their young warriors to fight on the shores of the far off Aegean Sea?

Well, both countries were part of the then mighty British Empire and when the Empire called we sent our troops. The Ottoman Empire was allied with our enemies, the Central Powers led by Whillemite Imperial Germany. In an exercise conceived by one of the great heroes of the Second World War, the First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Winston Churchill, the ANZACs were committed to an Imperial mission to seize the Dardanelles, aid our ally Czarist Russia, and knock the Ottomans out of the war.

The ANZACS came to Gallipoli to fight as imperial troops but they returned home as proudly Australia and New Zealand troops. At home a spirit of nationalism and nation building flourished and the sacrifices, as grievous as they were, were seen then and by later generations as the starting point of two new nations.

We also remember that the Gallipoli campaign was a key moment in the history of our onetime enemy Turkey. The outstanding leadership and courage Mustapha Kemal Ataturk displayed at Gallipoli was the start of his climb to greatness, which led him to become the creator of the Turkish Republic; the new Turkey, which grew from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Fighting in conditions that varied from the summer heat to the chilling cold of winter in difficult and forbidding terrain, the losses were high. Much blood was spilt on the Gallipoli Peninsula until the final Allied soldier left on 9 January 1916 from Cape Helles.

The strategic goals and tactics of the campaign both failed but the campaign left an enduring legacy of remembrance, suffering and pride for the peoples of Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian and New Zealanders were not alone; of course, by our side on the battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula were our fellow members of the British Empire from India, Canada and Ireland, and our allies, primarily French troops and French colonial troops from the Maghreb and Africa.

One bitter battle in August 1915 demonstrated the international flavour of the Gallipoli battles. It was the Battle for Hill 60, a low hillock between Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove held by the Turks. There, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Ghurkhas, New Zealanders and Australians, and of course Turks, all died in a pointless unresolved battle.

We remember today and salute our allies from that war and from the ones that followed, as we also remember the courage and determination of the Turks, once our foes now our friends, who defended their homeland with great skill and vigour. The respect that the ANZACs came to show their Turkish enemies has healed wounds and built a friendship between three nations, perhaps unique in war. We will hear later the moving Ataturk Words to the mothers of Gallipoli.

Of course, Gallipoli was not the end of war for the ANZACs. They went on to fight even more bloody battles on the Western Front at the Somme, at Ypres, at Villers-Bretoneux, at Messines Ridge, in Palestine and elsewhere. We remember the fallen there also, as well as we remember the fallen of World War Two, Korea, Indonesia, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who have given their lives on peace keeping missions.

This year also marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Great War. This sobering anniversary gives us pause to remember that although all the combatants of the war have left this world we are still paying the price for the great catastrophe of the Guns of August 1914. It inalterably changed the world, mostly for the worse and set up the 20th century for more bloody conflict.

While we remember our own countries sacrifice and that of our allies, we also remember the losses of our one time foes and give thanks for the building of bridges that have made one time enemies now friends and partners.

We also remember the often forgotten contribution of the Republic of China and its people to the First World War. Although China was not a major combatant country in the war, Chinese labourers served on the Western Front as labourers on the allied side. Many thousands died. There is a memorial to the Chinese labourers at Ypres in Belgium. We remember their contribution also today.

So what do we do now, as we come together here at this memorial service?

We remember the fallen and their gift to us of their sacrifice. As is written on the memorial to the fallen of the Kohima battlefield of World War Two - "We gave our today for your tomorrow".

We treasure our freedom and our lives.

We make our commitment to honour the ANZACs courage and pain by committing ourselves to God's love and peace, to democracy and freedom, to peace and to justice, and to the end of war and conflict.

Lest we forget them
Lest we forget our commitment to peace