Commemorative Address – ANZAC Day Dawn Service 2015

COMMEMORATIVE ADDRESS
ANZAC DAY DAWN SERVICE 2015

VILLERS BRETONNEUX, FRANCE

 

In the silence of this morning – we gather – remembering those brave and courageous Anzacs that stormed the Gallipoli peninsula 100 years ago today.

As they came ashore, the beat of their hearts matching the pace of their boots.

Australians and New Zealanders – together in that place for the first time.

They suffered the same dangers and privations.

Together, they died in their thousands.

There were families across two continents – from as far apart as Wellington and Perth – who farewelled loves ones from home, never to be seen again.

While they continued to campaign together in the Middle East, here amidst the fields and the villages of France and Belgium, in the war’s main theatre, they were more often apart than together.

It was not until July 1917 that Australians and New Zealanders stood once more against a hardened and unyielding foe, sharing the battlefields with their British and French allies.

Campaigning side by side, they fought and occupied the trenches of Messines in Belgium, described by Australia’s Official Correspondent to the war, Charles Bean, as the Anzacs’ ‘first great common battle since Gallipoli’.

It was but a short distance from here that under the leadership of General Monash, the allied forces broke through.

In August 1918, the four day Battle of Amiens was fought close to this place.  It was the crucial Allied breakthrough counter-offensive – an “all arms battle” where infantry, artillery tanks and aircraft were used together leading to an unprecedented advance.

When the fighting ended in November 1918, following the Hundred Days Offensive, few of those original Anzacs of 1915 remained.

Whether buried here on the Western Front or back home in the lands of their birth, those Australians and New Zealanders gave us much to be proud of.

The cost was much higher than anyone could have imagined when the war began.

Two years later on 7 November 1920, during a sermon, the Catholic Bishop of Amiens said of the Anzacs:

“I owe you and your illustrious dead my heartfelt thanks because the land of my diocese has been your field of battle, and you have delivered it by the sacrifice of your blood.”

The sacrifice that the Bishop speaks of – the sacrifice made in blood by those brave Anzacs – must be understood and carried on in the hearts and minds of our young people.  It must never be forgotten.

From his pulpit, the Bishop went on to say: … “the children, who in coming centuries will grow up in your homes and schools, will learn through your good deeds the lessons of patriotism. They will not be able to pronounce your name without speaking of the towns, villages, tablelands, ridges and valleys of the Somme.”

The effects of the war were also felt far from the fields of battle.

Not just those who served but their families at home.

For them, the war represented a different struggle. Absence, years of anxiety and of waiting for news from the fighting fronts, while dreading what that news might be.

Those who survived and returned home, were often unable to leave the war behind.

This Centenary period is not just about those events of one hundred years ago.  It is our opportunity to remember the century of service and sacrifice since.

Our presence here today and the presence of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders at services like this back home, or on one of the many battlefields in which we have fought together, is evidence of just how profound and far reaching the Anzac legacy has been – and shall ever remain.

One hundred years on, Australian and New Zealand soldiers again join together to defend our interests at home and abroad.

They are our modern Anzacs.

Two nations, one tradition.

Anzac is our shared legacy.

Lest we forget.