Remembrance Day Service
Bankstown War Memorial
11 November 2013
It is ninety five years today since the guns fell silent on the Western Front.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that war – World War One.
On 28 June 1914 a 19 year old man named Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand – the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
It was an event that unleashed a whirlwind.
Over the next four years more than 37 million people from 40 different countries would be slaughtered. Including more than 60,000 young Australians.
When they left our shores Australia was a country of less than five million. One in every two men of military age joined up, more than a quarter of a million went overseas and one in every five never came home.
Thirty-one of those young men came from right here in Bankstown.
Back then Bankstown was a small rural town. The railway line had just come through. The first gas street lamps were being installed.
Our first open-air theatre, the “Empire Theatre” opened on the corner of Stanley and Stacey Streets where Stanley Reserve is today.
After the war ended the local Council bought some land on the other side of the railway station called Fripp’s Paddock and they renamed it Memorial Oval.
It’s a Memorial to the 31 young men from our local area who went off to fight on the other side of the world and never came home.
They also erected a memorial and put their names on it. Their names are:
70 years ago that memorial was moved from the Memorial Oval to here, where we stand today.
And when this new memorial was built in 2007 it was put in storage at Bransgrove Road Depot.
These 31 men deserve to be remembered. And as we approach the 100th Anniversary of World War One I think we should return the old memorial to its original place at Memorial Oval. The Mayor agrees and we are going to make it happen.
It is just one of the things we can do.
On the 100th Anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli – just over a year from now – we are planning a special event at Memorial Oval.
After the dawn services held right across Bankstown, we will gather at the Oval.
There 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.
It will be a very important moment for Australia, for all Australians – and we should be part of this.
We should be part of this because what happened on the beaches and the cliffs of Gallipoli has shaped the people we are today.
In the still of night 4,000 young Australians headed in small row boats towards Anzac Cove. They landed in the wrong place. And the Turks were waiting. Many were killed in their boats. Others drowned, weighed down by their heavy packs.
One of the men who was there that day, Captain DG Mitchell, said it was like : “the key was being turned in the lock of the lid of hell”.
620 Australians were killed that day. More than 1,000 were wounded. 8,000 more died clinging to the cliffs of Gallipoli over the next nine months. Many of those who survived went on the fight and die on the Western Front.
20 years ago today one of the men who lost their lives in World War One came home. He is the unknown soldier who lies in the Hall of Memory in the War Memorial in Canberra.
At the event to mark the internment of this soldier, the Prime Minister Paul Keating made a stirring eulogy, and in it he helps us to understand the real lesson of war:
It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war: not the generals and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.
…. (they) proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.”
That is the essence of the Anzac story.
It’s what today is all about. What Anzac Day is about.
It’s why we are here and why we will be at Memorial Oval on Anzac Day in 2015.
It’s why it is so important that we take that memorial out of storage and return it to Memorial Oval.
And it’s why we will always remember the 31 men whose names are inscribed on it.
Lest we ever forget.