100 years ago at 18 minutes past four in the morning the first Australians came ashore at Z Beach – what we now call Anzac Cove.
That day more than 4,000 Australians came ashore.
One of them was Private William Hardie, a stone mason from Mimosa Road, Bankstown. He lived there with his wife Jane.
On that day, 100 years ago today, more than 600 Australians died.
William Hardie wasn’t one of them. He died three and a half months later at a place called Lone Pine.
On the 6th of August he rose out of the trenches and was mowed down by machine gun fire.
A fellow soldier said later “I knew him well. We enlisted together. I helped to bury him in the trenches.”
He was 38.
Over there is a memorial with William’s name on it.
There are 31 names on two stone tablets on that memorial.
31 Bankstown boys.
100 years ago Bankstown was a small semi-rural town. The railway line had just come through. The first gas street lamps were being installed.
The population was about 4,000. And about 350 of them went off to war. 54 never came home. For some reason, we don’t know why, there are only 31 names on the memorial.
What we do know is those 31 were ordinary blokes – carpenters, wood turners, labourers, storemen, stone masons, picture framers, artists and milkmen.
The youngest was only 17 when he enlisted. The oldest was 46.
And they fought and died in some of the most important battles of the war – from Lone Pine to Villers-Bretonneux.
One of the greatest feats of bravery at Villers-Bretoneux was from a Bankstown Boy. Private Fredrick Porter. A 22 year old milkman from Gow Street.
On Anzac Day 1918, 97 years ago, he single handedly attacked a group of 10 German soldiers. He killed five and forced the rest to flee.
In the fight he was wounded in the arm and broke his wrist. When the Germans realised he was wounded they counter attacked. That was a bad mistake. Despite his injuries the milkman from Gow Street killed another two of them.
For his bravery Private Porter won a distinguished Conduct Medal. He survived the Western Front. He died of influenza on the ship back to Australia. He never made it back to Bankstown. He was buried at sea on the 10th of November 1918. The day before the war ended.
After the war Bankstown Council purchased the land we are on here today, and they called it Memorial Oval.
It’s a memorial to those Bankstown boys who never came home.
A few years later they built a grandstand just over there – with two stone tablets with 31 names on them.
The grandstand was demolished about 50 years ago – and the tablets were moved to where the court house is today.
A few years ago when the new Bankstown Cenotaph was built the tablets moved again.
This time into storage at the Council Depot on Bransgrove Road in Panania.
They are not there anymore. They are back here. Where they belong. Where, all those years ago, people like us made the same sacred pledge that we are making today – that we will remember them.
War is nothing to be celebrated.
But the people who fought and died in them deserve to be remembered.
In a few minutes we will see the sun will rise over Gallipoli.
And when it does think about the men landing on that beach.
But also think about the people you love sitting next to you.
Think about your mum or your dad. Your brother or your sister. Your husband or your wife.
Now think about never seeing them again.
That’s what happened to William Hardie from Mimosa Road.
He never saw his wife Jane again.
That’s what happened to Frederick Porter, the milkman from Gow Street.
He never saw his mother Sarah or his dad George again.
It’s what happened to all those 31 men on the memorial. To the 600 or so who died on this day 100 years ago.
And all those who have fallen since.
This is not about war. It’s about them. The extraordinary sacrifice they made so long ago.
I remember watching the TV when I was a boy and seeing the Anzac Day March and the old Gallipoli veterans in the cars driving up George Street.
And I remember talking to my pop. My great grandfather. He was at Gallipoli too.
He’s now gone. They are now all gone.
Our World War Two veterans are now that age.
And as time steals more of them away from us, this day only becomes more important.
It’s now left to us. It’s our job, our responsibility, to make sure what these men did is never forgotten.
And that’s why we are here today.
This oval is famous for the great cricketers it has spawned.
Bankstown boys like Steve and Mark Waugh. We have even named a Pavilion after them.
But not all our heroes in Bankstown come from the cricket field.
Some sit up here on this hill looking over them.
Lest we forget.