Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day Service

Bankstown RSL

Speech

11 November 2014

One hundred years ago four warships and 32 transport ships packed with 30,000 young Australian and New Zealand men were in the middle of the Indian Ocean on their way to England.

On the way there was a change of plans. A change of orders. They were going to Egypt instead.

On the 3rd of December 1914, after over a month at sea, they arrived at Mena Camp, in the shadow of the Pyramids.

And there, for the next four and a half months, they trained for the moment they would be flung into history.

On 12 April they arrived on the island of Lemnos.

Two weeks later they stepped out of their rowboats and onto the shores of Beach Z .

What we now know as Anzac Cove.

On that day more than 621 Australians were killed.

Over the next eight months more than 8,000 Australians would die.

Over the next four years 61,522 Australian’s were killed.

Let me just put that in perspective. That was 1.23 per cent of our entire population – lost.

It’s the equivalent of 282,500 people today. Think about it like this, everyone from Georges Hall to Canterbury – gone.

The scale and impact is just extraordinary.

We have experienced nothing like it before or since.

Today like we have done every day for the last 96 years we stop to remember them.

Imagine what it must have been like to be in Sydney that day on the 11th of November 1918 when the word finally came through that the war was finally over.

I went back and had a look at the Sydney Morning Herald from that day and the days after to find out.

The news that Germany had finally signed the Armistice reached the offices of the Sydney Morning Herald at 7 o’clock that night. A few minutes later a special edition was being sold on the streets with the word ‘Victory’ in big, electric letters.

By 7:45pm the whistles on ferries in the harbour and locomotives in the train yards were in full blast.

By 8pm Martin Place was packed. The Herald described it like this:

Every man, woman, and child came into the city to celebrate, but they came in such numbers that they defeated their own purpose. At 9 o’clock, in Martin Place and Moore Street, and in Pitt and George streets adjoining, the crowds were so dense that no one could move. They could only stand and cheer.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, in France, Albert Holden, an Army Chaplin stood in a tiny war cemetery full of Australian dead.

There he could also hear the sounds of jubilation. The train whistles blaring, the church bells chiming and music and laughter in the streets.

There in the cemetery, where his own 19 year old boy was buried, he wrote to the mothers of some of the other boys buried there.

In his letter he says “I was alone with a lump in my throat, feeling in no mood to wave flags.”

That same emotion was also felt back here. While thousands cheered the end of the war, thousands more had nothing left to cheer about.

They were left with only an aching loss that would never fully heal.

In April next year we will stop again.

This time to remember those young men who jumped off those rowboats before dawn 100 years ago.

As I mentioned last year we are going to do that at Bankstown Memorial Oval.

After the dawn services held across our local area we will gather at Memorial Oval at about 11am where the electronic scoreboard will become a big screen TV and we will watch as the sun rises on the other side of the world, at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

The old original memorial, with the names of 31 young men from Bankstown who fought and died in the Great War, will also be returned to its original location at Memorial Oval.

Funding has been approved and preparations are now underway.

It promises to be a very special day.

And I encourage you to get the word out and encourage people to come along.

To remember those 31 Bankstown boys who went off to war and never came home.

To remember those 621 young men who died that day 100 years ago.

And to remember all those who have fallen in our name since.

On that day, like this day, we will honour the sacred pact, made almost 100 years ago and passed from one generation to the next that we will remember them.

Lest We Forget.