Chief of Army Address, Anzac Day Dawn Service, Bomana War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea, 25 April 2023
Bomana is a revered place.
Here the 3,824 Australian, Papuan, New Zealand and other Allied servicemen who died in the fighting in Papua and on Bougainville during the darkest days of the Second World War lay at peace.
It is a particularly significant place for Australia, and for Australians, for no other war cemetery in the world contains more of our nation’s war dead than this one.
The Memorial to the Missing, the iconic Cross of Remembrance, and each and every headstone stand as eternal reminders of the cost of the liberties and freedoms we privileged to enjoy today.
We gather here on Anzac Day, as the day dawns over Bomana, in fellowship with friends, in quiet personal reflection and in our collective act of commemoration.
And we remember all those whose service resulted in them making the ultimate sacrifice.
They served, and died, in our name on Gallipoli, the Middle East and on the Western Front; here on the infamous Kokoda Track and in the Pacific, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is significant that we commemorate Anzac Day in Papua New Guinea this year.
For this year marks the 80th anniversary of the New Guinea Offensives.
A series of operations fought from September 1943 that succeeded in ejecting Imperial Japanese forces from Lae, the Huon Peninsula and the Markham-Ramu Valley.
These operations liberated the peoples from those regions from Japanese occupation, and ultimately regained the initiative and momentum that pushed Japanese forces out of New Guinea and the Philippines.
For the first time in the war, all five Australian divisions were involved in the fighting, supported by the Royal Australian Air Force and most of the Royal Australian Navy.
And it produced the war’s closest and most enduring bonds, between Australian diggers and their Papuan Wontoks, who heaved supplies and ammunition through this dense jungle and rugged terrain up to the forward area, and evacuated the sick and wounded the other way.
Theirs was a tremendous feat of endurance and perseverance.
The New Guinea offensives were a hard-won victory that reflects the determination of all engaged in the fighting here 80 years ago.
Today we remember their determination as we stand here at this poignant site, and are inspired by their enduring legacy.
Their legacy is reflected in the values of the Australian Defence Force today.
Service. Courage. Respect. Integrity. Excellence.
And by which the Papua New Guinea Defence Force lives today
Professionalism. Teamwork. Tradition. Custom.
Our history shapes who we are today.
Understanding our history helps us to engage with the challenges of our future.
Today Australians continue to serve in our Army and in our Defence Force for the very same reasons – purpose and people, or as many soldiers put it, mission and mates first.
Today, I offer my respect and gratitude to those whom have served our nations throughout our shared history – to those who gave their lives in service, and those who serve today.
Importantly, we give heartfelt thanks to the families of our fallen and for the service of our families today.
Today, let us renew our commitment to be worthy of their sacrifice.
Lest we forget.
LTGEN Simon Stuart, AO DSC
Chief of Army