ANZAC Day 2012
Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Wednesday 25 April 2012
Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin;
Other senior members of the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines;
Colleagues from the diplomatic and attaché corps;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Boys and girls
On 25 April every year, all around the world, Australians and New Zealanders gather to honour the memory of those who have given their lives or suffered injury in the service of our two countries. We pause to pay tribute to their bravery, and to honour the sacrifices they have made in defence of the freedoms and values which Australians and New Zealanders hold dear.
While ANZAC Day now commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served their nations and people in uniform, the first ANZAC Day commemoration was held in London in 1916, while the First World War still raged, by Australian and New Zealand soldiers who sought to commemorate the battle and lives lost at Gallipoli just one year earlier.
On 25 April 1915, some 30,000 young service personnel from Australia and New Zealand – countries then in the very infancy of nationhood – landed on the coast of Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula as part of an ambitious and ultimately doomed military campaign to seize control of the Peninsula.
On 1 November 1914, a convoy of 26 transport ships had sailed from Albany, in the south of Western Australia, escorted by Royal Australian Navy light cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, the Royal Navy’s HMS Orveito and the Imperial Japanese Navy’s cruiser the Ibuki. On board were two New Zealand brigades and some 18,000 men and nearly 7,500 horses of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, initially bound for England but then diverted to Egypt. There they established a training camp, and became the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – the first “ANZACs”. It was during this time in Egypt that they received their unexpected orders to go to Gallipoli – their first battle orders – following the failure of British and French naval assaults in the Dardanelles.
These young ANZACs fought with extraordinary courage and tenacity. But they faced forbidding terrain and a brave and determined adversary, short of water and food, and living in most primitive conditions. 8,700 young Australians and 2,700 young New Zealanders lost their lives over the eight months of the battle; 24,000 were wounded. This, at a time when Australia’s population was 6 million and New Zealand’s 1 million, was a high cost. Other nations also suffered terrible losses – Britain, France, India, and of course Turkey, whose soldiers fought with great courage to defend their homeland. All together more than 130,000 young lives were lost and 260,000 were wounded in the space of less than a year.
Out of the courage of these young Australians and New Zealanders in the face of terrible circumstances was forged in the national identities of both our countries what has become known and celebrated as the ANZAC spirit: what the official Australian war historian Charles Bean, who was at Gallipoli, described as “reckless valour in a good cause, ….. enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat”.
These qualities have characterised the contributions and sacrifices which the men and women of our two armed forces have made in other conflicts; sacrifices that we honour today: in France and Belgium during World War I; during World War II campaigns in North Africa, Europe and South East Asia, including importantly campaigns here in the Philippines (where Australian sailors and airmen fought together with Americans and Filipinos in the campaigns in Leyte and the Lingayen Gulf); and more recently in Korea, Borneo, Vietnam (where Australian losses at the iconic battle of Long Tan would have been significantly greater without New Zealand artillery cover), in East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Reflecting this spirit, to this day - despite differences and rivalries, especially on the sports field - Aussies have a sense that if they are in strife the Kiwis will be there for them – and I believe vice versa for New Zealanders. I know of no two countries and peoples who are so close.
Today, among Australians and New Zealanders, there is a strong and welcome resurgence of interest in the significance of ANZAC Day and the ANZAC tradition. Thousands of our young people now travel every year to the Gallipoli Peninsula eager to honour and learn more about the extraordinary sacrifice those soldiers made in 1915. I am proud that my elder son and daughter-in-law are among them.
There, at what is now known as ANZAC Cove, they see inscribed on a memorial the remarkable words of reconciliation and healing by the great Kemal Ataturk (who as Mustapha Kemal Bey was a commander at Gallipoli) which we will hear later in this service. Those immortal words remind us of the importance, on a day when we remember those who gave their lives in war, of also reflecting on the lessons of war, and of honouring their legacy by recommitting ourselves to the cause of peace.
Today, many of our nations have servicemen and women deployed around the world and we also pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifice, and remember those who have given their lives in peacekeeping operations. We take pride in the contributions they make to bring peace and security to those places and peoples still torn by conflict.
Thank you all for joining us this morning. You are by your presence part of a great tradition that lives on 97 years after Gallipoli – in fact part of a sacred trust: of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice; of honouring their legacy; and of reflecting on the terrible costs of conflict and war.
Lest we forget.