For Australia, as for many nations, the First World War remains the most costly conflict of deaths and casualties.
The official record of the casualties from this war as well as other conflicts since, omits the suffering of those closest to the lost; families – wives, mothers, fathers, children.
All have shared in the desperate longing to hear word of a loved one coming home, only to receive the notice your loved one has lost their life in the service of their country.
A tribute to women an excerpt from a song “Mother, Daughter, Wives” written by Judy Small is very appropriate.
“You can only just remember the tears your mother shed,
As they sat and read their papers through the lists and lists of dead
And the gold frames held the photos that your mother kissed each night.
It was 21 years later with children of your own
The trumpets sounded once again and the soldier boys were gone
And you drove their trucks and made their guns and tended to their wounds
At night you kissed their photographs and prayed for save returns.
And after it was over, you had to learn again
To be just wives and mothers when you had done the work of men
So, you worked to help the needy and you never trod on toes
And the photos on the piano struck a happy family pose”.
At 11 am on 11 November 1918, exactly 100 years ago today, the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. After inflicting heavy defeats upon the Germans over the preceding four months, the Germans called for an armistice (suspension of fighting) in November in order to secure a peace settlement. They accepted allied terms for an unconditional surrender.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month attained a special significance in the post-war years. From a population of fewer than five million, 416 809 Australian men and women enlisted, of which over 60 000 were killed and 156 000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
The allied nations chose this Armistice day and time for the commemoration of their war dead.
On the first anniversary of the Armistice in 1919 two minutes’ silence was instituted. The silence was proposed by Australian journalist Edward Honey, who was working in Fleet Street. A South African statesman made a similar proposal to the British Cabinet, which endorsed it. King Georg V personally requested all the people of the British Empire to suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the Armistice. The two minutes’ silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.
On the second anniversary of the Armistice in 1920 in commemoration was given added significance with the return of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields. Unknown soldiers were interred with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triumph in Paris. Most other allied nations adopted the tradition of entombing unknown soldiers over the following decades.
After the end of the Second World War, the Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day. Armistice Day was no longer an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate all war dead.
In 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring
11 November to be Remembrance Day, urging all Australians to observe one minute’s silence at 11 m on 11 November each year to remember those who died or suffered for
Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts.
The Flanders poppy has long been a part of Remembrance Day, the ritual that marks the Armistice of 11 November 1918. The vivid red of the poppy came to signify the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem
“In Flanders Fields” and the symbolism was attached to the poppy – the sacrifice of shed blood.
The French YMCA secretary took the idea further by selling poppies to raise money for widows, orphans, and needy veterans and their families.
We pause for the 100th time to remember the over 60 000 Australians who never returned. Today we remember the countless more Australians whose lives are and have been changed forever by war. Generation of men have been lost, only their bravery and determination drove them on while not knowing their fate. Looking back from the peace they gave us, we can see today how close they were to its end. They were volunteers who answered the call of their country, a country that will be forever grateful. On their return to a country united by 4 years of war, Australia set to building a nation which became the envy of the world.
The duty of the ANZACs and indeed all Australian soldiers since was and is to fight and to die for the values we and others enjoy today. In the years since, the men and women who put themselves forward to defend their country, our country and their loved ones, our loved ones have known sacrifice just as great. Today there are still volunteers who answer the call of their country to serv selflessly.
In our time, our duty is to guard the legacy of the sacrifice and service of every man and woman who defends us, our freedom and our values. On their return to Australia and to their families, we must ensure that the values and principles they fought to defend are not eroded. As a nation we must ensure that the foundations of our freedom, such as the rule of law and the presumption of innocence, are extended to them.
This service here today is a tradition of remembrance. There is no owner of that tradition. No one has the right to cancel this Remembrance Ceremony in any form. We are only the caretakers for the short time we are here, and our duty is to hand this Ceremony on to the next generations.
Today on the 100th anniversary of Armistice, we remember the service and sacrifice of all men and women who have fought for us. We remember those who kept Australia going at home, working in the factories, keeping the farms operating, the public utilities working and in good order, the women, wives, mothers, daugthers who played a huge part in keeping Australia operating as well as supporting those men who were at war and gave them hope and something to come home to and for.
Those who bear physical and psychological wounds as a result of their service to our nation, and the families who love and support them, and when we see our young impressive returned men and women of today participating in the Invictus Games, the spirit of those ANZACs of 100 years ago is alive and well.
We must remember it is only because of their legacy that we enjoy peace
Lest we forget
Pyramid Hill College – Year 10
Many will recognise this excerpt from the famous poem composed by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, about his friend Alexis Helmer, who was killed during battle. Written in 1915, “In Flanders Fields” is still read at Remembrance Day services in Australia and other services all over the world. It was based on the aftermath of the Battle of Ypres in World War 1, in which our ANZAC’s fought.
“To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high”
100 years on, the people of today need to take the legacy and never forget the soldiers who risked and gave their lives for their country’s future. It is now our job to honour those who served in World War 1 and not allow the world to forget. This rises the question: why is the memory of World War 1 still important today? Although the tragic events of World War 1 occurred 100 years ago, the lessons the world learned and the sacrifice and courage it witnessed are something that should be kept and treasure forever. From the young unsuspecting men staring death in the face, to the struggling women back at home taking on what was previously considered ‘mens tasks’, the events that happened showed how Australia unites as one when the time comes.
We remember and respect those men and women on Remembrance Day, whether they served, were wounded or fallen. We take the torch and hold it high by continuing to hold Remembrance Day ceremonies, wearing our poppies, lying our crosses, reciting ‘The Ode’ and ‘In Flanders Fields’ and holding a minutes silence at 11:00am.
100 years since World War 1 ended, everyone alive during those times has passed away. We cannot let their courage and sacrifice die with them, Remembrance Day is not only our chance to honour those who gave their lives for our country, but to remind the children of Australia of its history. The ANZACs had many, many desirable traits, their bravery, selflessness and mateship is something that should passed down through the generations and for that to be successful, children should be educated and need to know the whole story to fully understand the hardship that soldiers went through. Not only is it important that Australia’s stories and culture are passed down, it is essential that Australians have something to appreciate. The events that occurred during World War 1 really allow people these days to put their first world problems today into context.to forget the events of just not World War 1 but all other events in our history, both tragic and joyful, would be disastrous. Our stories of war, struggle and our ability to unite as a country in a time of conflict and warfare is something for our future citizens and countries all over the world to look up to and something for Australia to be eternally proud of.