ANZAC Day Dawn Service of Remembrance
As dawn breaks, we again stand together in the dim light. We stand together respectfully and thankfully. We stand together in solemn recognition of extraordinary people: fellow Australians who served, suffered and died to uphold our freedom.
It was at this time of day, a century ago, and half a world away, that a group of young Australians and New Zealanders landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. They were true nationals, from our multicultural, Caucasian and Indigenous backgrounds.
They didn’t know it at the time, but those courageous young men were the makings of a legend. It was at Anzac Cove, and on the rugged slopes of the inhospitable Gallipoli Peninsula, that the Australian identity was born.
This Anzac spirit – the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship, was forged in the tragedy of the Gallipoli campaign. It has ever since been the hallmark of our armed services. It has ever since inspired us individually, and as a nation, to be the best we can be.
We recognise however that accompanying that positive Anzac spirit, was the reality of war. Les Carlyon says in his acclaimed work ‘Gallipoli’, “At Gallipoli on April Twenty Five, romance and realism met on the battlefield. As it always does, romance lost”.
What was that shocking reality? In the eight month campaign, more than eight thousand seven hundred Australian servicemen were killed in action or died of wounds or disease, and almost 18 thousand were wounded or captured.
Queensland, along with the other States, contributed the cream of its youth to the Great War. Queensland contributed 58 thousand, nearly 40 per cent of the male population aged 18 to 44. Ponder that proportion – 40 per cent of all men aged 18 to 44. Many of those young men served at Gallipoli.
Lieutenant Duncan Chapman was a twenty-seven year old platoon commander in Queensland’s Ninth Battalion. He made history when he became the first soldier ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula – at this dawn – a hundred years ago today. How appropriate it is that we respectfully acknowledge Lt Chapman today.
The casualty figures for the Great War were huge: over sixty thousand Australians killed and one hundred and fifty six thousand wounded, gassed or taken prisoner; stunning, shocking. However, those figures cannot give a feel for the individual family tragedies played out as a result of this conflict.
The reality is that the cream of the nation was lost a century ago; families throughout the nation were left to mourn, and they still mourn.
Let us reflect for a moment on the Keid family from Graceville, but a few kilometres to the west of this Shrine of Remembrance. Six Keid brothers volunteered to serve in the First World War. Only two returned home. Bill was killed at Gallipoli, and while his brother Ted survived the whole Gallipoli campaign, he was to die later in action in Belgium.
Leonard and Walter were also both killed on the Western Front - in the same battle, at Pozieres, in nineteen sixteen. Although wounded at Gallipoli, brother Harry survived the war, as did the youngest brother Guy. How these days could we hope to deal with that cruel hand of fate?
The Keid family and many other grieving families throughout Queensland and the nation received more than their fair share of ‘Dead Man’s Pennies’ and official pink telegrams with that dreaded phrase: “It is with deep regret and sympathy…”. How pale, by contrast, are our daily tribulations.
The so-called ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ was a bronze memorial plaque issued by the King. It was issued to the next of kin of personnel killed in action in World War One.
The plaque bore an image of Britannia standing with a lion over a defeated eagle. The serviceman’s name was engraved, and without rank, as there is equality in sacrifice. It was inscribed: “He died for our freedom and honour.”
The great uncle of my Official Secretary Air Commodore Mark Gower, was killed in action in the Great War. The Official Secretary –himself a distinguished serviceman – has shown me the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ of his great uncle, Sapper Henry Thomas Gower of the Royal Engineers, which I now display in this respectful assembly.
The recognition our society accords for such conspicuous service must surpass the token; it must be long-standing, and indeed ever continue, consistently with the interdependence which binds and defines us all.
This year we focus on Gallipoli, and for good reason. It marks the centenary of our nation’s first contribution to global security, in far-away Turkey. It marks the creation of the Anzac spirit, the defining moment of our nationhood.
This is the spirit which has imbued the service of Australians on many subsequent fronts.
And so we also remember this early morning the sailors, soldiers and airmen who have served – and serve – in Africa, Turkey, Europe, the Middle and Far East, the Pacific and Afghanistan. We remember those who served in conflict and as peacekeepers.
And we remember with profound gratitude the families of those who have served. We acknowledge the sacrifices they have endured, and will continue to endure, supporting those who have put themselves in “Harm’s Way” for our country, for us. That endurance, as we now increasingly accept, extends to psychological harm, even for lifetimes, afflicting both serving personnel and their families.
Since Remembrance Day nineteen-thirty, the Eternal Flame of Remembrance has been burning in this Shrine in Anzac Square. Under the tutelage and guidance of my parents, my teachers, I was moved by that circumstance as a child and as a youth, and I still am – deeply. This flame burns constantly. It burns as a reminder for me, for all of us, of the sacrifices made by our men and women at arms – sacrifices made to preserve and defend the freedom we have today.
Let us never take that hard-won freedom for granted. And in this world of regrettably increasing uncertainty and unpredictability, there is need for particular vigilance.
May I suggest finally that it is appropriate for all of us to ask ourselves this morning whether we are the worthy beneficiaries of the sacrifices we respectfully proclaim today?
We will indeed be worthy of those sacrifices if we seek to exhibit in our daily lives the qualities of those who fought and died for us at Gallipoli, and in the many conflicts which followed – the characteristics of selflessness, comradeship and dedication to the common good.
If we strive to live according to those principles, if to those ends we can truly rededicate ourselves today, then we may hereafter claim with demonstrable conviction: “Their name liveth for evermore”.