Bita Paka Memorial Plaque Dedication and Open Day at the Wacol Military Museum
I thank Association President Phil Ainsworth for his kind welcome, and Major-General John Pearn (Retired) for his sombre but educative description of the battle that took place in New Britain in September 1914.
I congratulate the Air Force Cadets present today on their dress and bearing and thank the Royal Queensland Aero Club for its participation.
More recent generations of Australians may be surprised to learn that the World War One battle we commemorate today took place just five weeks after Australia declared war on Germany in August 1914. And that it was not on the other side of the world, but a mere twelve hundred kilometres from the northern tip of Queensland.
In the past, Bita Paka has been a name recognised by too few Australians, despite its significance as the first World War One action in which Australian military units fired shots in anger and suffered casualties.
The one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the “Great War” is helping to remedy that situation, encouraging increased interest in all aspects of Australia’s involvement in that conflict. I was pleased to see a recent article in our local media about Captain Brian Pockley, one of the Australians killed at Bita Paka.
The numbers involved in Bita Paka may have been small, but the battle was nevertheless in deadly earnest. Australians died there. Their loss was deeply felt among their comrades-in-arms and their grieving families.
Today we do our part in ensuring that they are not forgotten by participating in a solemn commemoration of their service, bravery and sacrifice.
The Association has, of course, been strongly committed to this cause for decades, and I speak for the people of Queensland in thanking the Association’s members for their tireless dedication to the memory of all Australian military personnel who fought in Papua New Guinea. Their initiative and stewardship in creating and maintaining this marvellous museum keeps that memory alive for current and future generations.
On this last day of Legacy Week 2014, as I now unveil the Bita Paka memorial and join others in laying wreaths, let us all resolve to play our part in honouring those who fought and died there. Lest We Forget.