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On December 16, 1918, Winston Churchill said: “We must look forward one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years, to the time when the vast continent of Australia will contain an enormous population; and when that great population will look back through the preceding periods of time to the world-shaking episode of the Great War, and when they will seek out with the most intense care every detail of that struggle; when the movements of every battalion, of every company, will be elaborately unfolded to the gaze of all; when every family will seek to trace some connection with the heroes who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or fought on the Somme, or in other great battles in France…” Throughout the last four years South Australians have collectively looked back over the last century and commemorated, remembered, and honoured those who served in the First World War, their families and loved ones. Names of places that four years ago were perhaps unknown to many of us are now etched in our memories: Fromelles, Pozieres, VC Corner, Villers Bretonneux, Passchendaele, Bullecourt, Hamel, Montbrehain. In the Middle East, General Allenby described the Australian Light Horse’s two-and half-year trek from the Suez Canal to Damascus as ‘the finest cavalry feat the world has ever known.’ On 12 November 1918, then Premier of South Australia, The Hon Archibald Henry Peake, said in a statement to Parliament:

The Hon Steven Marshall MP, Premier of South Australia

“There is no question whatever that we have been and still are living in great and eventful times, the like of which we may never see again, and those who have passed through them will be able to tell their children and to their children’s children of the anxious and perilous times of the great war, in which everything was staked.” Premier Peake went on to reflect on the catastrophe of the Great War and his fervent hope that it never be repeated. As history has shown world events would dash Premier Peake’s hope when, on 3 September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that Great Britain had declared war on Germany and that Australia was also at war. The Second World War would claim the lives of 39,000 Australian servicemen and women. Only five years after its end in 1945, over 17,000 Australian service personnel were deployed during the three years of the Korean War - 340 would not return. Of the 60,000 deployed in the Vietnam War, 521 would give their all. The Malayan Emergency – 39, the Indonesian Confrontation – 21, Afghanistan - 43, the list goes on. 102,867 people have given their lives in the defence of our nation and our values. It is easy to reduce the service of our military personnel to a statistical analysis but they and their families have given much more. Last year I paid my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Surrounding the tomb, and often referenced by the War Memorial’s Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, are 15 stained glass windows each inscribed with an image and a distinctive quality of the Australian serviceman. The windows are arranged in three groups of five on the walls of the Hall of Memory under three broad categories: personal, social and fighting. Resource, candour, devotion, curiosity, audacity, independence, patriotism, chivalry, loyalty, coolness, control, endurance, decision, ancestry and comradeship. Far more than statistics, our servicemen and women have carved out the values that bind us as a nation and to which we aspire. When the First World War ended there were approximately 167,000 Australian servicemen overseas in Europe, the United Kingdom or in the Middle East. Demobilisation and repatriation of these men and looking after the families of those who had lost loved ones became a priority matter for the government. Our service personnel and their families remain a priority today. We honour their commitment to serve when we attend commemorative services on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day, Vietnam Veterans’ Day and other significant days each year. In 2003 Prime Minister John Howard said to returning soldiers from the Iraq conflict: “You went abroad as part of a great Australian military tradition, a tradition that has never sought to oppress people … but rather a tradition that seeks to defend what is good in the world, that seeks to uphold the values for which this nation stands and seeks to deliver freedom from tyranny, from terror and oppression.” The tradition continues in the knowledge that our values may at times need to be defended in other parts of the world and that our servicemen and women will do so drawing on the examples set generations ago. We Will Remember Them.

Profile for The Last Post Magazine

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

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