As we pause today to remember the fallen, I have been reflecting on why Anzac Day so important to our nation.
In the early hours of 25th of April 1915, troops from Australia and our cousins from New Zealand assaulted a beach in Turkey that we now call ANZAC Cove. Major Duncan Chapman, from Maryborough, was the first ashore and was joined by many men from towns and farming communities in Wide Bay.
It was a proud moment for these men, but a momentous undertaking for our country. It was the first time soldiers from the independent Commonwealth of Australia, barely a decade old, had come to fight for our sovereign King, assisting our former mother-country, Great Britain.
The Gallipoli battle proved to be poorly planned and executed. Many lives were needlessly wasted, but the ANZAC troops clung to their small beachhead valiantly for seven arduous months; suffering enormously through battle casualties, disease and severely lacking in supplies to sustain their effort.
But they endured.
And when the time came to withdraw back to the ships and sail away, it was successfully conducted through detailed planning, good communication and disciplined military skills. That last walk from the trenches to the boats, past the graves of their fallen mates, must have been distressing for these men. As they moved to the beach, they knew it represented the defeat of the mission.
These ANZAC soldiers truly believed that they had not failed as individuals or as mates. As they silently walked to the boats, each man vowed that the many feats of valour witnessed and the sacrifice of the fallen - the 8709 Diggers and 2701 Kiwis that remained behind, buried in the hills - would be forever remembered.
The first ANZAC Day service occurred 12 months later in 1916, with marches and gatherings in London, Australia and New Zealand.
Anzac Day provides allows us to mourn, and reflect on the contribution made by all sailors, soldiers and airmen and women who have served our country.
We also give thanks to the current Defence personnel serving on operations world-wide. The Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces are now known world-wide for their courage, commitment, endurance and mateship – this reputation has been gained through the challenges shouldered by generations of Australians emboldened by the spirit of those first diggers.
This year, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Binh Ba when two companies from 5 RAR, supported by armoured personnel carriers, tank troops and Australian helicopter gunships, engaged in house-to-house fighting to oust North Vietnamese Army (NVA) from the town. The fighting destroyed much of the town and left 100 NVA dead, for the loss of one Australian.
We also acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings in Normandy, in which about 3300 Australians participated including 2800 members of the Royal Australian Air Force and 500 members of the Royal Australian Navy.
While the overall number of Australians was small in comparison with the millions mobilised in Europe, for a small nation they are not insignificant - especially considering that in the course of the war a total of 27,000 Australian airmen served in the European theatre – and their action and courage is recognised still today.
It is sacrifices such as these that make Anzac Day an integral part of our nation's story.
On this day, we take time to pause, reflect and remember those who have served and those who have given their lives for our country, and acknowledge their role in shaping our country, allowing us the freedom and security we enjoy today.
Lest We Forget.