ANZAC Day Service, National Heroes Cemetery, Manila
Secretary Galvez, Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, Generals, officers and enlisted personnel of all countries represented here, veterans, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning.
It is a privilege to be here today. I have a strong, personal connection to the Philippines – one that is reflected in the shared history of our nations, including in past conflicts, and in our strong and enduring friendship.
Like many Australians, I also have a strong connection to the Anzac tradition. My grandfather Edward Farrell served with the 32nd Battalion AIF on the Western Front and wrote in a letter to my grandmother of “…the grimness, the grandeur, the awful scenes of carnage…” and that “at about 4.15 am all the devils in hell seemed to be let loose in the barrage all along the line.”
Three years earlier, the horror of the Gallipoli landing was similarly recounted by Private Sydney Skinner in a letter to his parents:
As the day broke and the light became brighter, you could just distinguish the land ahead. Along the shore were fifteen battle ships, laying grim, and silent, waiting for the shore batteries to open fire. At 5 am they opened fire on us – shrapnel was bursting everywhere.
It is terrible the damage this shrapnel does, it mows down everything in its path, hundreds were either killed or wounded before reaching the land, those that did reach the shore were mowed down by the machine guns. It looked as if it was impossible for any man to remain alive.
At this hour, on this day, 108 years ago, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops, joined soldiers from Britain, India and France to land at Gallipoli on Turkiye’s Dardanelles Peninsula.
The ANZACs, as they famously became known, were committed to a campaign intended to shorten the war.
But the overwhelming strength of the Turks and, let it be said their bravery, prevented the allies’ success.
By the time the campaign ended, more than 130,000 soldiers had died: at least 87,000 Ottoman soldiers and 44,000 Allied soldiers, including more than 8700 Australians and 2800 New Zealanders.
The sacrifices made at Gallipoli extended into the carnage of the Western Front, with battles such as those fought at Villers-Bretonneux, Fromelles and Hamel indelibly marked on our history.
The 11th of November each year marks the end of that first world war, which was hoped to be the war to end all wars. History shows us that optimism was sadly misplaced.
Today, like hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, who gather at memorials in cities, suburbs and towns in New Zealand, Australia and across the world, we gather not to celebrate or glorify war, but to honour those who have sacrificed so much in the cause of peace, from the Gallipoli landing up to the present.
ANZACs have continued to fight side by side from the horror of the Western Front during World War One to the campaigns of the Second World War, including 4000 Australians who fought during the liberation of the Philippines and 92 who made the supreme sacrifice.
Today, among those who served, I particularly remember my uncle – who flew Catalinas with the RAAF in the Philippines at that time.
The importance of remembering our fallen is particularly poignant today.
The families of the more than 1060 prisoners of war, from 16 countries – including 850 Australian service members killed during the sinking of the Montevideo Maru – now have a measure of closure.
As Prime Minister Albanese has put it: At long last, the resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has been found. We hope this news brings a measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil.
On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for the support provided to the search that made last week’s discovery of the Montevideo Maru possible.
Since World War Two, New Zealanders and Australians have served side by side, very often with Philippine and other partners.
They have served and continue to serve together on a wide range of peace operations.
Most recently, the current generation of ANZACs have pursued peace in Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Today our servicemen and women continue to uphold the values of our communities, underpinned by a sense of a “fair go” and mateship.
The same “can do” responsiveness that occurs on our shores in reaction to natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and earthquakes is replicated by soldiers, sailors and aviators in troubled areas of the world.
Many of our servicemen and women have paid the supreme sacrifice.
Inevitably families have also paid a high price.
It is fitting that we offer all those who have served our nations in the pursuit of peace our gratitude, and the time that we spend at moments like this service, when we can be mindful of their contribution in trying to create a better world.
Lest we forget.
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