LAE WAR CEMETERY
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
25 April 2013
Captain Wilfred Holden Sherlock.
2/6th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.
He is buried just over there.
He is one of more than 2,800 men buried here.
On 28th January 1943 he was one of only 200 men who stood between 1,000 Japanese and the Australian Airfield at Wau.
He was a farmer from Victoria.
That day in January he was their leader.
His bravery helped shape history.
Against incredible odds his men held on throughout the day.
By late afternoon they were down to less than 30 men still fit to flight. And still they held on.
Sherlock led from the front, charging into the enemy – killing four with his bayonet.
The next morning his luck ran out – cut down by machine gun fire, crossing Crystal Creek.
Men like this, men like Bill Sherlock shouldn’t be forgotten.
His actions mattered.
59 planes carrying over 800 extra Australian troops landed at Wau the day he died.
They were only able to land (before the Japanese got there) because of the bravery of Bill Sherlock and his men. It turned the course of the battle in this part of Papua New Guinea.
The Australian soldiers who landed that day, and the days after, pushed the Japanese back over the next eight months to Salamaua – along the Black Cat Track.
More than 700 Australians died fighting between Wau and Salamaua. They are buried here.
It’s the 70th Anniversary of this battle this year.
And over the last seven days, Scott Morrison and I and some remarkable young Australians have walked in their footsteps.
Australia is a very luck country. We didn’t have to fight for our freedom – but we did have to fight to keep it. And fight we did right here.
The men buried here did that. They did that with the help of the people from Papua New Guinea.
There would be hundreds, if not thousands more graves here if it wasn’t for the help of the fuzzy haired heroes who carried them to safety.
The action of these men, fuzzy wuzzy angels, has forged a very special bond between our two countries that we will never forget.
We owe them, and Bill Sherlock, and all the other men who are buried here, a debt that can never be properly repaid.
But what we can do is live a life worthy of the sacrifice they made for us.
That’s what we did yesterday.
Here alone in the cemetery – straight from the mountains where these men died we came here, faced these men and made a silent, private pledge, to live a life worthy of the sacrifice they made 70 years ago.
That’s what lest we forget means to me.
That we do more than just remember men like Bill Sherlock and the others that lay here.
That we honour their memory and learn from them.
That we are inspired by them to be our better selves.
To create a better future.
And to do everything in our power to ensure nothing like the war that cut through the heart of Papua New Guinea and stole from Australia much of its greatest generation – ever happens again.
Lest we ever forget.