Chief of Army - Anzac Day Dawn Service Address

Chief of Army - Anzac Day Dawn Service Address

Anzac Memorial Park, Townsville

 

In my 40 years of service, I’ve attended Dawn Services in all sorts of places and in many different situations; all unique, all special, all inspiring.

This year I’m especially pleased to be in Townsville – the proud home of the largest Garrison in Australia, with its rich fabric of current serving, veterans and their families.

I’m proud to be in a Nation that honours service through this Anzac day, each year.

To be in a community that gets up before dawn to gather, like this, around memorials, in the dark, regardless of weather.

To pay respect in silence to those that have gone before, to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

To pay respects to the grieving families left behind.

To those who returned with physical or invisible wounds.

To acknowledge service, and the difference our serving men and women make, wherever they go, putting duty before self, always seeking to live up to the Anzac spirit and honour their legacy.

To appreciate that service is about sacrifice, and it is also about growth; about individually and collectively being part of something bigger; about doing something together.

There are so many individual stories of courage, mateship, endurance, compassion, dedication, and of loss.

Stories that impact families and communities right across this vast country. 

 

Townsville soldier story

Stories and memories that live on, like Private Adam Cardno Alexander, who grew up on Stanley Street, just several blocks away from where we gather this morning here in Anzac Memorial Park.

The eldest of five children to Alex and Amelia, he attended Townsville Central school and worked as a compositor at the Hastings Printery in the years before the First World War. 

Adam Alexander enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1916.

The Gallipoli campaign had ended, and most of Australia’s forces had deployed to the Western Front.

He joined the 51st Battalion in the field as a reinforcement, becoming a signaller in the battalion headquarters.

He fought in all the major Australian engagements throughout the bloody battles of 1917: Bullecourt, Messines [pronounced: “Mess-eene”] and Polygon Wood.

104 years ago today, Private Alexander was killed in action in the costly but successful counterattack against German forces at Villers-Bretonneux [“Viller-Breton-err”].

He was 26 years old, and his body was never recovered.

He has no known grave, but he is commemorated on the cenotaph in this park, so close to where his family, friends and community mourned his loss.

His name is the first of 116 Townsville servicemen and women listed on that memorial as having made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the nation.

How they and other Anzacs carried themselves through those tough times was inspirational.  

We see the legacy of the Anzacs in the values that form the foundation of who we are today as an Australian Defence Force: Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence.

From Gallipoli, Palestine and France in the First World War.

North Africa, the Mediterranean and New Guinea in the Second World War.

Through Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, and more recently in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as numerous peace keeping and support operations.

Each commitment having its own unique context, its own geographic and environmental challenges – but all fought with a common spirit, one that continued to reinforce and build on the Anzac legacy.

These are the qualities of the Australian soldier, sailor and aviator that connect our past with the present and for the future.

We can all be proud of the Australian Defence Force personnel who helped to evacuate civilians from that dangerous and deteriorating situation in Kabul last year.

Of those who deployed at short notice to assist our regional neighbours in Solomon Islands and Tonga.

Of the many thousands of Australian servicemen and women who have served tirelessly in our community here at home.

Through bushfires, the pandemic and floods.

Our servicemen and women represent the best of Australia and our diverse and multicultural society.

They come from all walks of life, from every part of the country.

All with a shared sense of purpose, of selfless service, and each bringing something unique, to build highly capable teams and help solve complex challenges.

This is the Australian way.

 

Townsville

The city of Townsville and the Australian Defence Force have a deep bond spanning nearly 150 years.

Its proximity to Papua New Guinea and other nations has made Townsville a city of strategic importance to Australia and the Southwest Pacific region.   

The Queensland Volunteer Artillery Brigade was formed here in in the late 1870s amid fears Australia would be invaded by imperial France and Russia.

This never occurred, but the threat led to our first home defence units, which included the 3rd Queensland (Kennedy) Regiment, the fortifications at Kissing Point and the nearby Jezzine Barracks.

In the decades that followed, thousands of men and women from Townsville volunteered to serve in the First and Second World Wars.

It was during the latter conflict, when the war was fought closer to home, that Townsville played a vital part in the defence of the Australian mainland.

It became an important logistical centre for Allied operations in the Southwest Pacific, its population tripling overnight with the arrival of vast numbers of American troops in 1942.

The battle of Coral Sea was fought off these shores, and Townsville itself was subjected to three Japanese air raids.

Garbutt became one of the most important air bases on the Australian mainland, and the port facilities at Townsville sustained the Allied naval effort for the remainder of the war.

Many Australian troops who fought in Vietnam had at some point been based at, or transferred through the lines of Lavarack Barracks.

Today, Lavarack Barracks remains the home of the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade and elements of all other Army brigades, while RAAF Townsville is home to Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment and some 1,500 Air Force personnel.

On this Anzac Day, we remember the deep and enduring bonds between the community of Townsville and our Australian Defence Force.

One that we acknowledged last June as we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the 1996 Blackhawk crash.

 

Conclusion

This morning, we pause and reflect on the service and sacrifice of Australians in war and peacekeeping operations, and in training.

Servicemen like Private Alexander, who came from the city of Townsville and made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their nation.

We recognise and respect all veterans.

We remember all those who died, and those who carry physical or invisible wounds as a consequence of their service.

We give thanks to our families and loved ones, whose love and support sustains us and allows us to do all that we do; but who also sacrifice greatly.

We give thanks to our ex-service and community organisations for their contribution and ongoing support.

We acknowledge our New Zealand partners, and the many other allies and partners with whom we have operated alongside, including our law enforcement, emergency services and volunteer organisations, for their service and sacrifice as we defend our shared interests.

And today we show our appreciation and respect for our current-serving members, who continue to live the values forged more than a century ago on the rugged beachhead at Gallipoli.

They are doing amazing things, making a difference wherever they go, and making us all proud.

It’s an honour to serve with them.

So as the sun rises, let us reflect on the meaning of Anzac.

Let us be eternally grateful for the service and the sacrifice being made in Australia’s name, and commit to always upholding the legacy they left for us.

Lest we forget.

 

Richard M. Burr, AO, DSC, MVO
Lieutenant General
Chief of Army