Honouring the fallen
They remembered soldiers who never returned from the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Western Front and all conflicts since, they remembered the families left behind and thought of those serving now.
In the 100th year since the start of World War One, Australian Defence Force personnel across Australia and Gallipoli, France, Belgium, Kabul and the United Arab Emirates marked the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.
Chief of Defence Force General David Hurley joined thousands of Australians who made the pilgrimage to Turkey to commemorate Anzac Day and recited the Ode of Remembrance during the dawn service at Anzac Cove.
“It was a rare privilege to read the Ode at a time when so many Australians are rediscovering the significance of the Gallipoli landing in our nation’s history,” General Hurley said.
“I have a great sense of reverence for the fallen who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign.
“On the eve of the Anzac Centenary, it is important to honour the original Anzacs’ sacrifice and to remember all Australian servicemen and women who have fallen over the past 100 years.”
He also paid tribute to the 3200 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on operations at home and abroad.
“Our serving personnel are the custodians of the Anzac spirit,” he said.
“They carry the spirit and continue to uphold the values of courage, mateship, endurance and sacrifice.”
In Canberra, in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prime Minister Tony Abbott summed up the sentiments of millions of Australians when he said that he was in awe of those who had served or lost loved ones in war.
“Members of our armed forces have done what most of us are never asked to do: they have been prepared to put their lives on the line for our country,” Mr Abbott said.
He said World War One had impacted Australia like nothing else before or since.
“Of men aged 18 to 42, almost one in two served in uniform.
“Of those who served overseas, almost one in five died on active service.”
Of the 270,000 who returned, more than half had been wounded – and others had mental scars that never healed.
Mr Abbott said while it was important to reflect on the awful defeat in Gallipoli, we should also remember the victory on the Western Front.
“When the last big German offensive split the British and French armies in March and April 1918, it was largely the Australians that plugged the gap and held the line,” he said.
“In the closing months of the war, the five divisions of the First Australian Imperial Force, fighting together for the first time, bested no fewer than 39 enemy divisions, took 29,000 prisoners, captured 338 guns and advanced over 40 miles on contested ground.
“It’s the only time in history when Australian forces have engaged the main enemy on the main battlefront and made an appreciable difference to the outcome.
“Victories, even terrible ones, should be no less iconic than heroic defeats.”