ANZAC Day 2011 - Berlin
Ceremony at the British War Cemetery, 25 April 2011
Address by Ambassador Peter Tesch
One hundred years ago, in 1911, Australia marked the tenth anniversary of Federation. The Australian Capital Territory was established. The Royal Military College, Duntroon, opened. King George V granted the title “Royal Australian Navy” to the young nation’s maritime forces.
How prescient were those actions, for just four years later these institutions were engaged in the first – but sadly not the last - military conflict of our nation’s history. We are proud that then, as now, New Zealand was at our side.
The 25th of April 1915 is beyond living memory. And yet here in Berlin, as in Villers-Bretonneux, in Ypres, in Wellington and Canberra, and in almost every town throughout Australia and New Zealand, people just like us are engaged in solemn ceremonies just like this - recalling those men and events that gave meaning to the name “ANZAC”.
We do this every year in dignified, reverent commemoration – not of war – but of the sacrifice and loss which is forever bound with the exploits of that day and the months that followed – exploits that took place on forbidding and unforgiving terrain in an unfamiliar and alien country – a country which has since became a firm friend and valued partner, whose representatives we welcome amongst us here today.
For nearly a century - in fact, for most of Australia’s federated history - ANZAC has shaped our sense of self and how we see the world.
The values embodied in the name “ANZAC” still speak firmly and clearly to us:
• courage – that drove the bold assault over open ground at Lone Pine;
• sacrifice – that saw a largely volunteer army sustain casualties during the “war to end all wars” of one in twenty-five of our country’s population at the time;
• mateship and steadfastness – epitomised in the story of Simpson and his donkey;
• respect for the opponent and a sense of a deeper humanity and compassion – expressed in the memorable truce to bury the dead on Whit Monday 1915, almost one month to the day after the landings at Gallipoli.
As Captain Aubrey Herbert of the Irish Guards – the man who negotiated that truce with Mustafa Kemal - recalled:
We mounted over a plateau and down through gullies filled with thyme, where there lay about 4000 Turkish dead. It was indescribable. One was grateful for the rain and the grey sky. A Turkish Red Crescent man came and gave me some antiseptic wool with some scent on it … The Turkish captain with me said: ‘At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep’ … I talked to the Turks, one of whom pointed to the graves. ‘That’s politics’, he said. Then he pointed to the dead bodies and said: ‘That’s diplomacy. God pity all of us poor soldiers …’.
At 4 o’clock the Turks came to me for orders. I do not believe this could have happened anywhere else. I retired their troops and ours, walking along the line. At 4.07 p.m. I retired the white-flag men, making them shake hands with our men … About a dozen Turks came out. I chaffed them and said they would shoot me next day. They said, in horrified chorus: “God forbid!’ The Albanians laughed and cheered, and said: ‘We will never shoot you.’ Then the Australians began coming up, and said: ‘Goodbye, old chap; good luck!’ And the Turks said: ‘Smiling may you go and come again.’
Captain Aubrey Herbert
The truce of 24 May 1915 to bury the dead, Quinn’s Post
Cited in Les Carlyon, “Gallipoli”, pp 287-288
For our then still-young federation, these were the first generation. Sadly, that Turkish wish – that they should ‘smiling go and come again’ – was not to be realised for some 9000 of them, who lie buried in Turkish soil.
The sense of identity which the 25th of April 1915 helped mould has guided, inspired and supported Australians through the terrible wars and conflicts that have followed and that beset the world still.
As we reflect on those long-ago events on that distant peninsula, some 3500 Australian men and women in uniform continue to serve and uphold the spirit and values of ANZAC in Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomons, Sudan and the Sinai. They are amongst the 65,000 Australian servicemen and women who have participated in 50 UN and other multilateral peace and security operations since 1947.
Today, then, we recall and honour the service and sacrifice of all of them.
Wars end, but our duty to remember never will.