ANZAC Day Dawn Service
My fellow Queenslanders…
On the 25th of April 1915, as, in its endless cycle, the sun rose at Gallipoli, thousands of ANZACs were already fighting desperately to win a foothold among the deadly beaches, ridges and gullies.
Not long before, these men had been leading peaceful civilian lives elsewhere. Now they were in the teeth of a ferocious battle, in a distant land, against a determined foreign foe.
Cut down by small-arms fire and shell bursts, men fell and did not rise again – as many as 2 thousand were killed or wounded on just the first day.
And now one hundred and four years later, this pre-dawn finds us gathered here in our thousands. But here it is quiet. It is peaceful.
We strive today, as we do every year, to try to ease ourselves into the boots of those first ANZACs, to imagine what it must have been like for them.
That isn’t easy. The battle was long ago and far away. And Australia was different then, an infant nation still developing its identity.
But now in Queensland in 2019 we have another, direct way of making a connection with the ANZACs. We can see their faces.
Beginning in 2014, the State Library of Queensland digitised and placed online the photographs of almost 27,000 Queensland soldiers–yes, twenty-seven thousand! – photos taken at Enoggera Camp in Brisbane during World War One.
They were originally published in the newspaper then called the Brisbane Courier.
Families, friends and colleagues could scan the rows of faces and proudly point out someone they knew, in uniform, ready to do his duty.
It was then the men who fought at the front, but let us not forget the enormous contribution of women, as nurses, and in many other areas of support.
More than a century later, when we scan the faces of the men, their most extraordinary feature is that there is nothing extraordinary about them at all. They are faces of everyday Queenslanders who had hitherto lived everyday lives.
Yet we know that these are the same men who displayed such extraordinary courage and daring at Gallipoli, in the Middle East, in the killing fields of the Western Front.
These are the same Queenslanders who endured the unendurable – baking heat, bitter cold, the constant fear of death, wounds and disease, the violent loss of close mates.
Many of those lost were closer than mates, they were brothers.
The Auchterlonie boys grew up in Gympie. Bertrand, Archibald and Cecil all sailed to Gallipoli but only Cecil survived the months of fighting.
Despite the enormous loss to this family, there was no pardon to send the only surviving son home. Cecil was redeployed to the Western Front and in the battle of Pozieres, the 20-year old former bank teller was wounded by an exploding shell.
His injuries were so severe he was sent to England to recuperate and would have been permitted to stay there for the rest of the war, but instead he asked to be transferred back to the front with his buddies.
Awarded a Military Cross for acts of bravery during an attack on enemy trenches, Cecil was promoted to Lieutenant. The command brought with it a responsibility to care for and protect his band of brothers.
One night his unit lost contact with a group of soldiers in a trench; instead of sending others, Cecil went out into the dark himself. A leader by example.
Lieutenant Cecil Auchterlonie died in a burst of machine gun fire before he reached them … he was just 22 years old.
Last year I visited the gravesite of Lieutenant Auchterlonie at Villers-Bretonneux and placed a poppy by the headstone of this brave Queensland lad.
It was an important act, to show that the sacrifice and humbling legacy of service by every ANZAC is not, will not be forgotten.
The price paid was atrocious, and those thousands of soldier portraits bore witness to just how terrible it was.
Some of the photographs were published a second time, but then they were sadly matched with casualty lists – ‘Killed’, ‘Wounded’, or ‘Missing’.
For Queenslanders at the time, the photographs may have been the last link with someone who would never come home. For Queenslanders now, they offer a poignant and powerful window into the past.
Knowing the price these men and their comrades paid, we stand together today to demonstrate our gratitude and respect, our pride, and our sorrow.
They are, always, our everlasting heroes.
We have all come here in the early morning calm today because we care deeply about the ANZACs.
The 8 months at Gallipoli may have seemed like a terrible defeat on a foreign beach, but more than a century later, we should consider those brave men did win …. they set an enduring and inspiring example.
They led by example, an example indelible and emboldening more than a century on, an example shaped by courage, selflessness and camaraderie, qualities still robust in Queenslanders, indeed definitive of them.
I am constantly reminded of this as I travel widely across our State.
The legacy the ANZACs gave us was a spirit to bond together and always be there for each other when it seems like we are in the middle of the biggest hardship we have ever faced.
As your Governor I am deeply grateful for your sincere commitment in being here today; to honouring the sacrifice and the determination that have now become part of our national DNA.
We are compelled by so many considerations not the least now by those tens of thousands of photographs of the first ANZACs, to commit once more to that powerful reminder indeed rightly an admonition: Lest We Forget.
If we store today in our minds just one of the images of the faces of these young soldiers, I hope that may strengthen us to do our solemn duty by them, as they did for us.
We will not forget-we will never forget.