Australian Commando Association (Queensland) Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Operation RIMAU
I thank the Presidents of both the Australian Commando Association nationally and here in Queensland; I am most honoured to participate in this solemn commemoration.
We commemorate many things today.
First and foremost, we commemorate the 23 Australian and British commandos – as we could now call them – who took part in Operation RIMAU seven decades ago.
We commemorate the daring and enormous courage they displayed in the ten months between leaving Australia and the execution in Singapore of the last ten to survive.
We remember their families, friends and colleagues, who had to endure the burden of grief at their loss.
One of those families was that of Queensland’s 21st Governor, Sir Walter Campbell who, I understand, did not learn until 1990 that his late brother, Patrick, had been among those involved in Operation RIMAU.
I was deeply moved when I visited Patrick’s memorial headstone in Kranji Cemetery in Singapore earlier this year.
Exactly what happened to the group is uncertain. I believe that the last official contact was in late September 1944, when the group left the submarine Porpoise and boarded a captured vessel to sail to Singapore.
One unquestionable fact is that, of the 23 who left Fremantle to attack shipping in Singapore Harbour, none returned. As far as we know, they died from disease, or in fighting with their Japanese pursuers, of wounds after capture, or were executed.
What is not in doubt is their deep sense of duty and their determination to wreak as much damage and mayhem on the enemy as they could.
We marvel at their steely determination and endurance. Despite numerous setbacks, they carried on with the mission until it was untenable. Then they attempted to return to Australia through enemy-held islands and waters. Some of them reached Timor before being killed or captured.
We are here today to do what none of them could do.
They could not get together after the war to honour lost mates. They could not grow old and tell their stories once the veil of secrecy over commando operations had been lifted.
We must do that for them, and do it well.
Seventy years on, we pay heartfelt tribute to these brave men through our prayers, the laying of wreaths, the lament of the pipes, a roll call that can never be answered, and the dignified, sombre military rites reserved for our war dead.
As Governor, and on behalf of the people of Queensland, I thank the Association’s executive and membership for making this wonderful, moving tribute possible.
I congratulate the guard from the Royal Queensland Regiment, the Band of the 1st Regiment, Royal Regiment of the Australian Artillery and the Catafalque Party, and the RAAF Flag Orderly on their impressive dress and bearing today.
I thank also all those who have joined us today, including the serving officers in attendance, whose presence reminds that the spirit of the RIMAU twenty-three lives on after them.
Together we remember and honour the extraordinary deeds of these men in the service of their countries.
We remember their selfless sacrifice – with sadness, but also the deepest admiration and gratitude.
Lest we forget.