Gallipoli Centenary Dinner, 9th Battalion of the Royal Queensland Regiment
A speech delivered by His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC as Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia: Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, for your introduction, and for your invitation to Kaye and me to join you for this highly significant occasion.
We commemorate tonight many things.
First and foremost, we honour the pivotal role the 9th Battalion played in the watershed Gallipoli campaign, a century on.
We remember – and, despite tonight’s impressive replica frontline, we struggle to fully imagine – the immense uncertainty which faced Lieutenant Duncan Chapman as he took those first brave steps upon the inhospitable Gallipoli coastline at around 4.30am on the 25th of April, 1915.
Lieutenant Chapman was shortly followed by other members of the 9th Battalion, who as part of 3rd Brigade, provided covering force for the initial assault.
Lieutenant William John Williams, the Signals Officer to Captain Arthur Graham Butler, the Regimental Medical Officer, tallied the Battalion’s first day losses: 25 casualties, 229 wounded.
That original handwritten list in pencil was presented to the John Oxley Library in the 1930s by Captain Butler’s brother-in-law. It is in two parts, and was retrieved and beneficially digitally archived by the State Library last year in preparation for this year’s centenary.
We also commemorate tonight 100 years since the August Offensive, commencing with the Battle of Lone Pine on the 6th of August, 1915, during which the Battalion maintained its sector in defence of the Peninsula.
Our Governor-General is in Turkey, alongside Australia’s four living Victoria Cross recipients, to mark this significant anniversary period, and in recognition of our two nations’ now-close friendship.
In His Excellency’s absence, I am very honoured to be Administrator of the Commonwealth and for this time your Commander-in-Chief.
I consider this to be an enormous honour for Queensland. It adds additional recognition to tonight’s commemoration.
Thirdly, we also marked today the laying up of the 9th Battalion’s original Queen’s and Regimental Colours.
I was deeply humbled in December last year, as the 26th Governor and Representative Colonel, to present 9 R-Q-R with new Queen’s and Regimental Colours, some 47 years after the originals were presented by Queensland’s then 18th Governor, Sir Alan Mansfield.
I thank the members of 9 R-Q-R, and the Australian Army Band Brisbane, for their impeccable turnout and drill at today’s ceremony.
It augurs well for the cohesion, and security, of our nation.
I congratulate Private Sean Boyle to whom I just presented the Brigadier Amies Cup.
I also thank everyone involved in the organisation of tonight’s deeply moving dinner, particularly in recreating the frontline.
It is imperative that we continue to unpack our history. By discovering more about our past, and particularly the sacrifice of all servicemen and women across all theatres of war, we discover more about ourselves.
Australians, by their millions, have done so this year in sombre unification to necessarily honour the 8,700 Australian service personnel who did not return from the Gallipoli campaign. We also do what those who paid the ultimate sacrifice could not do: honour their mates.
And we do so, majestically through occasions like tonight, with the deepest admiration and gratitude.
On behalf of the Australian nation, I say to those who are not here, but have guaranteed we are, and as free people, thank you.