11 NOV 2012 (94th Remembrance Day Service): It is such an honour for me to join you for this Remembrance Day Service and be in the company of those who have served this great country.
Today we commemorate the 94th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in 1918 which brought respite to the world after four years of brutal conflict.
The stories handed down from those who served in battle all those years ago tell a story of World War 1 and a horrific conflict.
It tells a story of young men who went away to war filled with a sense of adventure and honour but for all too many the realities of war were quite different.
The insidious trench warfare, the brutal killing and stench of death, the soul destroying mud resembled some sort of earthly hell.
There was no phone to call home, there was no internet to keep in touch with family, there was no comforts of the modern day – just the faint hope that you would survive and make it home.
World War I marked the beginning of an era where technology made killing each other easy. Hundreds of thousands were killed by machine guns, barbed wire, poison gas and sophisticated new artillery.
Of the more than 65 million men mobilised by all nations involved in World War 1, more than seven and a half million of them were killed. 21 million were wounded.
Proportionally, Australia paid the highest sacrifice of any nation in the war. From a population of fewer than five million at the time, 416,809 Australian men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner, including the young men whose names are forever inscribed in the memorial behind me.
The impact on our small nation was profound, not least because we lost so much of the future talent of our country. Current and future leaders in their fields – artists, scientists, farmers and sportsmen – beloved children and fathers….enlisted and marched straight to their deaths.
And yet, from ashes of conflict and destruction grew some good
The bloody struggle our fore fathers endured, laid the foundation for the freedoms we enjoy today. Servicemen and women are bonded together in an enduring sense of mateship, a sense of doing the right thing; in a sense that no matter the deprivations, your mates will not let you down, nor you them.
And these values have never been so important to this Country.
Our children are now almost 100 years removed from the onset of WWI, over 65 years from the end of WWII, and a generation or more away from the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
But the recent losses in Afghanistan are a sobering reminder that although war has become more sophisticated and in some respects more clinical, the ravages and death of war remain the same.
It is almost impossible for anyone who hasn’t experienced a war themselves, to comprehend what war must be like.
But that is no excuse to forget.
I would encourage the children here today and indeed every Australian, to remember and thank those who left the comfort and security of their homes in exchange for the daily risk of a brutal death; who left the warm embrace of their wives and partners, children, friends and other loved ones in exchange for bullets and barbed wire.
Ladies and gentlemen, the memories of our veterans, and those who made the greatest sacrifice should live on forever in our hearts and minds and be the inspiration for being the best we can be as a community.
If we can live by the values they fought for, and died by, future generations will be the richer for it,
Lest we forget.