ADDRESS - VILLERS-BRETONNEUX
THE HON CHRISTOPHER PYNE MP
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
ANZAC DAY DAWN SERVICE
25 APRIL 2019
Madame Parly, Admiral Noonan, Your Excellency, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
For more than a century Australian men and women have served our nation in wars, conflicts and on peacekeeping operations across the globe.
For more than a century now, on Anzac Day, we have paused to remember their sacrifice and acknowledge their service.
Today, we remember the service of generations of Australians.
The story of Gallipoli is etched into our military history.
The Anzac landing on the 25 April 1915, the bitter stalemate, and the final evacuation that December, is a part of the Australian story. Part of our baptism of fire.
But it is not our country’s only story.
There are so many more.
Every veteran has their own story.
And it is a privilege to listen when they share their memories.
Here, on the Western Front, Australians took their place in the First World War’s main theatre. Including my Great Uncles William and Octavius. Octavius, who was killed here at the Somme and William who returned home.
The hard won lessons learned in the trenches of the Somme and Flanders helped them contribute to victory in 1918.
Some held hopes that it was the war to end all wars.
But, as we now know, that was not the case.
Because more than two decades later, the men and women of Australia were again called on to fight.
Some were veterans of the First World War, including Arthur Blackburn VC.
He landed on the shores of Gallipoli on 25 April, along with my other great-uncle Patrick who was killed that day on the first ANZAC day.
During the Second World War Arthur Blackburn first served in the Syria-Lebanon Campaign.
A letter to two of his children, Bob and Woody, revealed some of the milestones missed at home:
“I wish you both many happy returns on your birthdays. I wish I was there with each of you but you can be rest assured that I will be thinking of you very much indeed. Somehow or other I have the feeling that I will be back with you by your next birthdays...I am sorry Bob, I am not with you for your 21st but I will be with you, with all the good wishes there are in the world in my thoughts…Your loving father…”
Arthur Blackburn didn’t make it back for their next birthdays.
In 1942 he was in command of all AIF troops in Java.
Known as ‘Black Force’, the Australians gave a spirited defence, but ultimately made the difficult decision to surrender to the Japanese.
He remained a prisoner-of-war until the end of the war.
Generation after generation have endured wars and conflicts of different kinds.
And generation after generation of Australian service personnel have put their lives on hold, and placed themselves in harm’s way in the service of our nation.
The Australian Defence Force has changed a great deal in the century since the first Anzac Day.
Time has taken our First World War men and womenfrom us.
Their experiences are now beyond living memory.
Though their presence lives on in our history.
New generations have taken their place.
They have served in many different wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Including my father Remington in Korea.
They face very different threats, in very different environments.
While much has changed, the character of our service people has not.
Their strength, resilience and courage has sustained each generation.
Their support for each other in combat, on operationsand at home doesn’t waver.
Their commitment to our nation remains steadfast.
Like their forebears, they have earned Australia’srespect, and always upheld the Anzac legacy.
At home, for generations, families have been there to support our service women and men overseas.
And they have continued that support when our servicepersonnel return home.
Because in many ways, families serve too.
Anzac Day is our opportunity to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the women and men of the Australian Defence Force and their families.
I encourage you to take the time, today and throughout the year, to stop and listen to their stories.
To thank them for their service.
And to remember those who never returned home.
For what they have done, this at least, we will do.
Lest we forget