Anzac Day Address
Australian Ambassador Mr Rod Smith
Anzac Day, Friday 25 April 2008
Defence Secretary Teodoro and other senior members of the Philippine Government and Armed Forces; Veterans; Colleagues from the diplomatic and attaché corps; Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys.
On this day every year, all around the world, Australians and New Zealanders pause to honour the memory of those who have given their lives in the service of our countries. We come together to pay tribute to their bravery, and to reflect on the sacrifices they have made so that we can live in greater freedom.
Anzac Day, the 25th of April, marks the day in 1915 when some 30,000 young soldiers from Australia and New Zealand – countries then in the infancy of nationhood – landed on the coast of Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula as part of an ambitious and ultimately ill-fated military campaign to seize control of the Peninsula for the allied forces.
These young soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – the Anzacs – fought with extraordinary courage and tenacity. But they had little chance of success, facing forbidding terrain and an equally brave and determined adversary; short of water and food, and living in the most primitive conditions. 10,000 young Australian and New Zealand lives were lost over the eight months of the battle. 24,000 of our soldiers were wounded. Other nations too suffered terrible losses – Britain, France, India and of course Turkey, whose soldiers fought with such courage to defend their homeland. There were some 400,000 casualties on both sides.
Yet out of their courage in the face of these terrible circumstances came what has become forged in our national identities as the ANZAC spirit: what the official Australian war historian, Charles Bean, described as “reckless valour in a good cause, … enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat”.
These are qualities that have characterised the contributions and sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made in other conflicts; sacrifices which we also honour today: in France and Belgium during World War I; during World War II campaigns in North Africa, Europe and South East Asia, including campaigns here in the Philippines; and more recently in Korea, Borneo, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Very near to here is a memorial that commemorates those Filipinos who died during the Korean War over fifty years ago. This was a time when Filipinos stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Australians, New Zealanders, Britons, Americans, Canadians, French, Turks and others. We served together as allies, in defence of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. And today, with all of our nations having peacekeepers deployed around the world, we also pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifice and honour those who have given their lives in peacekeeping operations. We can take pride in the contribution they have made, and are making, to bring peace and security to those countries and peoples still affected by conflict.
Today in Australia and New Zealand there is a strong and welcome resurgence of interest in the significance of Anzac Day and the history of the Anzacs. Thousands of young people are now travelling every year to the Gallipoli Peninsula, inspired by the Anzac legend and eager to learn more about the extraordinary sacrifice those brave soldiers made in 1915.
There at what we now know as Anzac Cove they will see inscribed on a memorial the remarkable words of reconciliation spoken by the great Kemal Ataturk, which we will hear later in the service. Those immortal words remind us of the importance, on a day when we remember those who gave their lives in war, also of reflecting on the lessons of war, and of recommitting ourselves to the cause of peace.
Thank you for joining with us today on this very special occasion.
Lest we forget.