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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Friday, 25 April 2014
MINVA025

REMARKS AT THE DAWN SERVICE
ANZAC COMMEMORATIVE SITE, NORTH BEACH
**CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**

Thank you Lieutenant-Colonel.

I also welcome those who have joined us this morning.

I particularly welcome those young Australians and New Zealanders gathered here today – for it is they who are our two nations’ future.

In the silence of this morning, in the eerie half light of this new day, we should all pause and reflect upon those who were here 99 years ago and what their thoughts were as they landed on the shores below.

We can only imagine what these men, the finest Australians and New Zealanders of their generation, saw and felt as boat after boat carried them from the safety of their homes and families to the heart of a global conflict.

Five days after the landing, Colonel Stanley Price Weir, the Commanding Officer of the 10th Infantry Battalion from South Australia, described it in these words:

Dawn was just breaking.

4.15 am and no sound was heard except the splash of the oars.

We thought that our landing was to be effected quite unopposed, but when our boats were within about 30 yards of the beach, a rifle was fired from the hill in front of us above the beach, right in front of where we were heading for.

Almost immediately heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was opened up on us.

Each dawn, on what we now call Anzac Day, we gather to mourn, to reflect and to remember those for whom the dawn of 25 April 1915 was to be their last.

We who gather here today mourn those who made the supreme sacrifice in defence of values still held so dear.

They answered their nations’ call.

They came from every corner of our two great nations to defend freedom.

They were our nations’ future: farmers, skilled tradesmen, labourers, artisans, teachers, writers, doctors, accountants, leaders and statesmen, amongst many.

Young men, strong and willing, brave and adventurous, plucked from the bosoms of their respective young nations.

Their blood stains the cliffs of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and the battlefields of the Western Front.

In the smallest of towns, and the largest of cities, they were mourned by loving mothers and proud fathers.

We also remember those who were wounded, those who survived and the families left behind on the other side of the world waiting for news of the fate of their loved ones.

The men who came ashore along this coastline 99 years ago were, by their own admission, ordinary men.

They did not seek glory.

Nor did they want their actions to be glorified – for it was they who quickly came to know the true horror of war.

That these ordinary men, however, did extraordinary things is beyond doubt.

Here and across the world this morning – in Wellington and in Canberra, in France and in the United Kingdom, in the smallest rural towns and in the biggest of cities, descendants of the Anzacs gather to pay tribute to those who stormed this beach on 25 April 1915 and to pay tribute to those who have served over the last 99 years.

While the Anzacs left these shores as a vanquished fighting force, they were however victorious in helping forge the identity of our two new nations.

And they introduced these new nations to the world.

They fought on Gallipoli for eight long months, and after the campaign was over 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders lay dead in the hills and valleys that ring this place of commemoration or on hospital ships at sea.

Countless more Turks met a similar fate.

The surviving Anzacs would leave here and go on to the Western Front, and to Palestine, to be part of significant victories that helped create a fine tradition of service and sacrifice that continues to this day.

Many who served on Gallipoli told their stories in their own words, often writing evocatively about what they had seen and endured.

Their names and stories are recorded forever.

The Ballarat Courier, from my home town, printed the following letter penned by a soldier who had served on Gallipoli.

The letter said:

I could write a book on the past four weeks.

Landing on an open beach, with 80 pounds on our backs, we flopped into the sea from barges 20 yards from the shore, and up to our necks in water.

The gear was thrown off, and we charged up a cliff 100 feet high with bayonets fixed …

With the terrific roar of the fleet guns to cover our advance you can imagine what a charge we had.

All day we were subjected to a hellish shrapnel fire.

In this case, we don’t know the identity of the soldier who wrote this letter – he was described only as being ‘formerly of Ballarat’.

But, despite his anonymity, his memories of the Gallipoli campaign are no less real.

As we reflect on the tragic loss of life at this place, and as the dawn of this new day breaks over the peninsula, our tribute to the spirit of Anzac is a reverential silence.

Lest We Forget.

 

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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