Thank you for the privilege of being your speaker on this Day of Remembrance, which marks the 93rd Anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War and today is now known as Remembrance Day. On Monday the 11th of November l918 at 11.00 am or 1100 hrs for those who utilise military time, the guns on the Western Front fell silent for the first time in more than four years of continuous warfare. The...Read full story
I thank Ben Hirsh and all VAJEX members for the opportunity to address you today at your 96th Anzac Day service. 1 And, in particular, may I also pass my respects to Felix and Yvonne Sher and their family. Australia’s Jewish community may be relatively small in numbers but you can rightly be proud of your contribution to defending Australia in war and peace. On the 19th of July last year, on the 94th anniversary of...Read full story
During my address I will go backwards and forwards in time and hopefully inform and entertain you a little and if there is any snoring, please keep it down to a quiet snore. I grew up in Kew with a high percentage of the Fink Family, while others lived all over Australia. My father and his family were fortunate to be here before the Germans took over Poland. Along with my brother Ron, I attended Yeshivah...Read full story
Remembrance Day Service
Addres by Geoff Burrows
Chair R&SL Kindred organisations I am proud, and extremely humbled, to be asked to address you today. Having attended these and other VAJEX functions over the years and having heard some extraordinary speakers. Today, we are gathered to commemorate Remembrance Day, the 11thof the 11th 1918. Our first purpose is to remember. Remember the dead, the wounded, and those in many ways affected by the Great War - the “War...
ANZAC Commemoration Service
Sunday 2 May 2010 Address by Denis Baguley,
Chief Executive, Shrine of Remembrance President of VAJEX, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, students, I am honoured to be invited to address the association’s Anzac commemorative service today as Chief Executive of the Shrine of Remembrance. I am pleased to acknowledge the ongoing role of the association which perpetuates and honours the memory of Jewish men and women in the armed services of Australia in the World...
Remembrance Luncheon 2009
Address by Roland Perry, Author The Australian Light Horse In case some of you are wondering what ‘Light Horse’ represents, it’s not midgets on a Shetland pony. It’s a lightly armed (rifle and bayonet) mounted riflemen. The Australians were never trained infantry. Most were horseman who were good shots, and could wield a bayonet, and later in the war, a sword. The British Cavalry, who fought alongside them, were trained soldiers who could...
Remembrance Day Service
November 2009 Address by GP Capt Norman Geschke obe jp raaf (Retd) It is an honour for me to be asked to address your 2009 Remembrance Day Service. I have visited a lot of War Cemeteries and Cenotaphs in Gallipoli, France, England, the Memorial at Runnymede and in the last few weeks, the Bitabaka War Cemetery at Rabaul. As always, I left very emotionally distressed. I cannot help but be upset, particularly when I...
ANZAC Service 2009
BRIG Graeme Standish AM RFD ED (Ret'd) Brig Graeme Standish AM RFD ED (Retd)
Melbourne Legacy President
Sunday, 26th April 2009
Mr President - Ben Hirsh, Patron – General Rosenfeld, Distinguished Guests, including Mr and Mrs Sher, the partner of the late Greg Sher and members of the Sher Family, members of the Victorian Association of Jewish Service and Ex-servicemen and Women, members of the...
Remembrance Day Service
Sunday 16th November, 2008 Melbourne General Cemetery Address by Surgeon Commander Warren Kemp rfd ranr (Ret'd) Mr President, Distinguished Guests and Representatives, Members of VAJEX. Thank you, President Ben Hirsh, for inviting me to this Remembrance Service, commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice, signed at 11am on 11th November 1918. Thus “The war to end all war” drew to a conclusion, but hardly resulted in a satisfactory solution for peace and stability in the world....
Remembrance Day Luncheon 2008 Address by Mr Barry Minster MA JP Thank you for inviting me today to attend your annual remembrance luncheon. I will try today to not tell the usual story of the ANZAC legend but rather try to enlighten you all on what it means to be a modern ANZAC. We are familiar with the creation of ANZAC at Gallipoli during the First World War but few of us ever give thought to the many...Read full story
ANZAC Service 2008
Address by Capt D B Bergman RFD ED (Retd)
Australia’s Special Forces Mr Ben Hirsh, President of the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, Association members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and members of the younger generation. Thank you, Mr President, for inviting me to your Association and for allowing me to address you at this significant time, your ANZAC Day Commemoration. My address to you is about Australia’s Special Forces. The military...
Address by Mr Gary L Edwards OStJ
Remembrance Day Service 11 November 2007
Melbourne General Cemetery
Mr Chairman, Mr Murray Thompson, Group Captain Dunn representing our Defence Force, COL Alf Argent, President of Legacy, Men and Women of VAJEX. Good morning, Boker Tov, Dobre Utra, Dzien Dobry. We are gathered here today to give remembrance to those who made the supreme sacrifice whilst serving in the uniform of their country. Today in the shadows of this ancient...
The Australian Light Horse and the Charge at Beersheba
Address by BRIG Michael Annett CSC ADC
Remembrance Day Luncheon 18th November 2007 The Australian Light Horse has a unique place within the wider ANZAC legend. The mounted regiments of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in the First World War became renowned for their hard-riding and courage in battle. Many considered them the military embodiment of the best characteristics of the Australian bushmen. But the light horse...
From the highest ranking to grunts, we’ve had them all. The variety of our Guest Speakers has been wide and extensive with all taking us on a journey into their world. From relating stories of sad losses to uplifting examples of bravery and camaraderie, you’ll find it here and more … so settle back and read the keynote addresses from some who were there.
Thank you for the privilege of being your speaker on this Day of Remembrance, which marks the 93rd Anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War and today is now known as Remembrance Day.
On Monday the 11th of November l918 at 11.00 am or 1100 hrs for those who utilise military time, the guns on the Western Front fell silent for the first time in more than four years of continuous warfare. The actual document was signed at 5.00 am and the hostilities ceased 6 hours later at 11.00 am. Thus came into being the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the silent tribute.
The term ‘Armistice’ means the cessation of hostilities as a prelude to peace negotiations. These took place over several months and resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This had the effect of cancelling the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed in 1917 on the eastern front, and the Treaty of Bucharest with Rumania.
The formal treaty was signed in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne some 65 miles North East of Paris, France. In 1940 Hitler exacted revenge on the French by forcing them to sign an armistice - on German terms - in the same railway carriage.
This historic carriage remained in place in a specially constructed building, the Clairiere de L’armistice until June 1940 when Hitler and other German officials demanded and received the surrender armistice from France.
During the occupation of France the building was destroyed and the carriage taken to and displayed in Berlin. During the Allied advance in 1945 the carriage was moved by the Germans for safe keeping to the town of Ohrdruf, but as the armoured column entered the town the SS set it ablaze. After the Second World War the Compiègne site was restored but it took until 1950 to place an identical Compagnie des Wagons-Lits carriage No 2439 built in 1913 in the same batch as the original was renumbered 24l9 D and still exists today.
As the armistice came into effect, so ended the First World War, one of the most brutal and horrific episodes in the history of mankind. The outstanding exploits and sacrifices made by the service men and women that fought in that war, gave Australia a sense of national identity and national pride that has endured to this day.
On each anniversary of the armistice commencing in1919, gatherings such as the one we are attending today have taken place all over Australia. Australia’s contribution to the final victory in the First World War was quite remarkable for a country with a population of only five million and so soon after Federation in 1901. The proportion of personnel provided and the casualties sustained more than equalled those of the United Kingdom, and the casualties sustained in this conflict remain the highest of all wars Australia has participated in since. Very few Australian families were spared the sorrow of losing a relative or friend and many families had no male heirs to continue the family name.
The slaughter of the First World War so profoundly affected the generation of that time that it was commonly labelled the war to end all wars and the 11thof November was known simply as Armistice Day as any future wars were considered unthinkable.
The casualties of some of the nations involved are staggering, and to give some idea I will detail a few:
Country Mobilised Killed Wounded Total %
Australia 330,000 59,000 152,000 211,000 64%
Great Britain 5,397,000 703,000 1,663,000 2,367,000 44%
France 7,500,000 1,385,000 4,266,000 5,651,000 75%
Russia 12,000,000 1,700,000 4,950,000 6,650,000 55%
USA 4,272,500 117,000 204,000 321,000 8%
Germany 11,000,000 1,718,000 4,234,000 5,952,000 54%
But please remember there were many more nations involved.
History shows us that the world soon forgot the lessons learnt during that terrible conflict, and consequently
Australia has been involved in a succession of wars and peace keeping operations culminating in The current deployment of defence force men and women in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Although the casualties are fewer the impact on the general population is much harder due to communication technology available in the modern world. Australia has been involved in a succession of wars and peace keeping operations culminating in the current deployment of defence force men and women in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Although the casualties are fewer, the impact on the general population is much harder due to communication technology available in the modern world.
In recent times, Armistice Day was changed to Remembrance Day and now encompasses all wars and warlike operations that Australia has been involved in.
On this day, we take time out to remember the many thousands of men and women who gave their precious lives in battle, and in many other ways, so that future generations of Australians may have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom we take for granted.
On this day we also remember those who were wounded in war or during captivity, particularly those who had their lives shattered by mutilation, or incapacitating injuries both physical and mental.
On this day we reflect on the futility and horror of war. We also pause to consider the fate that would have befallen our great country had these magnificent Australians, not willingly sacrificed their lives for the benefit of their countrymen.
On this day we remember the families, the brothers and sisters, the wives and husbands and the young children left by the death of the fallen, and the suffering they endure.
These Australians gave their precious lives and asked for nothing in return, except: TO BE REMEMBERED. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to continue to honour the memory of those Australians who have fallen in the service of their country.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the sacrifices of these special Australians are not diminished or sullied or consigned to history to become mere statistics. Let us ensure that they are remembered with genuine pride and gratitude and ensure that they did not die in vain.
MAJ John Boothroyd RFD ED (Ret’d) is the President of the RAEME Association Victoria Incorporated.
John was born in Lancashire England on December 25th1937 and survived the Second World War despite being bombed out of three houses. He was raised by his Grandmother as his father went away as a soldier in the territorial army on the day after war was declared. He returned in 1945, having served in the 8thArmy as an infantry man and Bren gun carrier driver in France, North Africa, Italy and Austria.
Having sat for the 11 plus examination, John was allocated to the Didsbury Selective School For Boys and received a mixed academic and technical education prior to migrating to Australia, and settling in Noble Park. He education continued at Dandenong High School until December 1952. Having passed the entrance examination to the Commonwealth Government, John commenced an apprenticeship as a Mechanical Technician with the PMGs Dept at the Postal Workshops in South Melbourne. This was completed in 1958 having also completed National Service in 1956.
At this time it was also a requirement to serve for five years in the CMF and he was posted to a Medium Artillery Regt as a gun fitter and became responsible for the maintenance of the 5.5 inch guns located throughout Gippsland. These guns were replaced with25 pounder guns and eventually with 105 mm howitzers and 105 mm field guns. Having risen through the ranks from craftsman to Warrant Officer Class 2, the Colonel of RAEME decided that John should become an Officer, so after selection testing, he was promoted to commissioned rank and posted to the RAEME HQs.
A short time later he returned to the Light Aid Detachment of the Artillery Regiment as the Officer Commanding and after three years was posted to command a Transport Company Workshop as a Captain. Due to re-organisation of the army, John occupied several training and administrative positions until being posted as the Officer Commanding 3 Communications Zone Recovery Company located in Warragul and Korrumburra. Here he was responsible for the provision of recovery support to 3rd Division in Victoria and 7th Division in NSW; he occupied this position for four years and was then promoted to Major. He secured the posting as the Training Major at the Officer Cadet Trg Unit at Puckapunyal - a position he held from 1980 until 1984 and then became S02 Logistics on HQ 3rd Division Melbourne. During this time he was involved in the Fiery Cauldron Exercise and carried out the duties of the SO1 Logistics, as the regular officer became unable to continue due to injury.
After two years he was posted to HQ 6 Gp Royal Aust Engineers as the S02 EME and provided repair and recovery support to the engineer units under command. In addition he also became the Camp Commandant for the Regimental and Technical Training Camps. His final task prior to retirement was to conduct a chainsaw, tree felling and bush mill saw course for a combined ARA and A Res group in the Big River area of Victoria, where the timber sourced and milled was used to construct bridges and elevated tracks over marsh land on the Great Divide Walking Track.
After 37 years, John retired having been awarded the Reserve Force Decoration with two bars and the Efficiency Decoration in conjunction with the National Medal with Bar, the Australian Defence Medal, and the Anniversary of National Service Medal.
After completing his apprenticeship he completed further studies to become a toolmaker and metallurgist and eventually became the apprentice master at the PMG workshops Melbourne. In 1965 he moved to the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe as a civilian instructor in a Warrant Officer Class One position in the metal trades wing. In 1969 he transferred to the Education Department as a technical trade teacher and taught at Doveton, Dandenong, The Pines and Frankston technical schools. Having completed teacher training at Hawthorn Teachers College, he became a Senior Teacher at Dandenong Technical College which eventually became a TAFE college. After serving some time as the State wide co-ordinator for the Trade of Fitting and Machining he was tasked with the coordination of the building of stage two of the TAFE college at Dandenong and the purchase of the machinery for the technical trades. Whilst involved in this task he also studied at Melbourne University for a Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration which eventually led to a Bachelor of Technical Education and a Diploma of Technical Teaching.
After promotion to Head of Campus being responsible for the day to day administration of the college and the conduct of examinations with the granting of certificates, the government of the day decided that the job was not required and so was “Jeffed”. However, after some months, John was asked to come back and work in engineering as the technical storeman until retiring in 2004, aged 67.
John has been happily married for 49 years to Robina and they have two children, one of whom still lives at home, along with his mother-in-law aged 92 who speaks with a broad Scottish accent.
I thank Ben Hirsh and all VAJEX members for the opportunity to address you today at your 96th Anzac Day service. 1And, in particular, may I also pass my respects to Felix and Yvonne Sher and their family.
Australia’s Jewish community may be relatively small in numbers but you can rightly be proud of your contribution to defending Australia in war and peace.
On the 19th of July last year, on the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles, I attended the ceremony in the new Commonwealth military cemetery at Pheasant Wood in Belgium. As you know, one of the 19 Australian soldiers killed in that battle, and reinterred that day, was Lieutenant Berrol Mendelsohn of the First AIF’s 55th Battalion.
Another 11 Jewish Australian soldiers are believed to have fallen in that battle - a fair proportion of the 95 Jewish soldiers, from Australia’s tiny Jewish community, known to have been killed in action in World War I. 2This 95 is about nine per cent of the 1093 who enlisted. 3Interestingly, at least 80 or so of the 95 killed were Victorians.
No doubt all of you are aware that Australia’s first Victoria Cross at Gallipoli was won at Lone Pine 4by Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor of the 1st Battalion.
A master bomb thrower, Keysor was also Australia’sfirst, and as yet only, Jewish recipient of the Victoria Cross.5
But on this occasion, with this audience, I suspect you do not want to hear yet another Anzac Day speech that concentrates on the first Anzac Day at Gallipoli. Or indeed one that dwells on the Western Front or Palestine campaigns of World War I, or the many campaigns across the globe in World War II.
Let us therefore focus instead on the continuing meaning of Anzac Day - and in a way that represents the responsibilities and activities of the Australian Defence Force of today, not yesteryear, and in a way that resonates with VAJEX as a community of faith as well as an ex-Service organisation.
As we gather here this morning it is just before dawn in Afghanistan. 6As I speak, Australian troops continue to fight a difficult war, under a UN mandate, in that country. And against an enemy motivated, at least in part, by an Islamist ideology that misuses the Islamic faith in order to try and justify warfare against the adherents of other faiths on religious grounds whilst at the same time waging war on their own people and their own faith.
Our defence force personnel are also deployed today in many other troubled areas across the world. The ADF’s oldest overseas deployment is our peacekeeping commitment to the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), monitoring the various truces on Israel’s borders stemming from the 1948 war, and where Australians have served continuously since 1956.
And where, in 1982, they were first joined by our second oldest overseas mission, our commitment to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai Peninsula, monitoring the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
Closer to Australia, we continue to have forces deployed in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. These stability assistance operations continue to employ both regular and reservist personnel (and our police as well).
Which brings me to the varied military service of one particular Victorian reservist and VAJEX member, and a soldier sadly now known to all Australians, Greg Sher.8 After enlisting in the Army Reserve in 1998, Greg served full-time in East Timor for six months in 2002-2003. After transferring to the commandos, Greg volunteered for service in Afghanistan as part of the first deployments of reserve units in combat since 1945.
Greg tragically became the first reservist soldier killed on active service since World War II.
But there is one particular story from Greg’s service in Afghanistan that binds together several themes:
• the Anzac tradition and its modern resonance and relevance;
• the volunteer and citizen-soldier culture in Australian history;
• the professionalism, the humanity and the cross-cultural awareness that has long exemplified the Australian digger;
• the complex and nuanced war we are fighting in Afghanistan;
• the difficulty of explaining this war to a modern Australian community largely focused elsewhere; and
• the difficulty of explaining some aspects of that war to an Australian community increasingly disengaged from personal knowledge of religious belief, and its part in that war, and who perhaps seem to have little knowledge or interest in Afghanistan as a country or a cause.
Our story begins soon after Greg arrived at the Australian main base at Tarin Kowt. It was discovered he needed to be formally qualified on a certain type of pistol, so he was duly sent down to the pistol range for a test shoot.
On arrival at the range the officer in charge, a commando warrant officer, was conducting a pistol practice for a small group of Afghan National Army soldiers.
During a break in their training the warrant officer, John, put Greg through his paces. It should surprise no-one here that Greg’s initial grouping on the target was such that John swiftly decided that Greg was well qualified to use that particular weapon.9
John asked Greg was he expected back at the Special Operations Task Group anytime soon. Greg replied that he had some 90 minutes to spare. John promptly invited him to help out with the training of the ANA group. Greg, being Greg, and not unaccustomed to conducting pistol training, volunteered to help just as promptly.
For the following hour or so Greg established quite a rapport with the ANA trainees. After he had left, with the usual round of “thank yous” from the Afghans, John asked the ANA personnel how they had found Greg as an instructor and coach.
With much nodding of heads they all praised John’s temporary assistant. “Well”, said John, “did they realise that Greg’s rank was private, just like them”. “No” they replied with some surprise.
“Well”, said John again, “would they be surprised to know that Greg was a reservist and not a full-time soldier”? The group showed considerable surprise at the news that their recent coach had another, everyday, profession besides soldiering.
Finally, John added “and he’s Jewish”. This was most surprising to this group of Muslim Afghans, who had probably never met a Jew in person before.
Now when Greg was later killed in action, every one of those ANA soldiers volunteered to parade for the ramp ceremony as Greg’s body was flown out for his final journey home to Australia.
It says much for Greg that a bunch of Afghan soldiers who had only inter-acted with him briefly, and who were all Muslims and probably had minimal education, if any, felt enough respect for Greg Sher as a soldier, a person and a Jew, to honour him personally as an Australian digger who had come to help their country.
I think in this account we see every aspect of the Anzac tradition in action, in its modern evolution.
I therefore commend the Victorian Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen and women for its institution of the Private Greg Sher Memorial Shield to honour, each year, worthy community tasks undertaken by students in Jewish schools or studying under the auspices of the United Jewish Education Board.10
At a national level, Greg’s name has rightly joined the other 102,000 names recorded forever in bronze on the Australian War Memorial’s roll of honour.
At Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan his name has joined those of his fallen comrades on the ADF and SOTG memorials.
Locally, Greg is honoured here in his home town by the memorial garden in Ferndale Park, Glen Iris. At unit level, fittingly for the commando he loved to be, Greg is honoured “on the rock” at Fort Gellibrand, the home of the Second Commando Company in Williamstown.
Within his close and extended family the memory of his supreme sacrifice is held close, with the pain of his loss mixed with the pride of Greg’s wartime service for his country.
In Israel, just over two years ago,11 Felix and Yvonne were joined by the Australian ambassador to Israel12in planting 18 trees in Greg’s memory at Nahal Assaf in the northern Negev. A location on the Anzac Trail that commemorates the Australian Light Horse’s 1917 Palestine campaign. Felix also recited Kaddish.
The institution of this shield by his community of faith fittingly completes the full cycle of our country’s formal and informal remembrance and honouring of this fallen soldier. But this shield in particular honours Greg in a perpetual manner that will continue to live and resonate within the young Australians of your faith into the future.
If I could conclude with some heart-felt words by Felix Sher on Anzac Day last year.
• Felix described Greg’s inspiration by the maxim “the Man in the Arena” written by US President Theodore Roosevelt, and noted,
• “The following quote by Theodore Roosevelt was placed by Gregory on the wall at his work desk and served as an inspiration to him”.
• “It is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
• The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat andblood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph ofhigh achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat”
• “Gregory was indeed the man in the arena, an enthusiastic, devoted, inspirational man who gave his life for love of the country he soldiered for”.
I can think of no better way to close my Anzac Day address to you this year. \
The tragedy of Greg Sher’s death in combat two years ago has brought the Army and Australia’s Jewish community closer together again. Both in mourning and in pride - as we saw again on Anzac Day when Felix and Yvonne joined the 2ndCommand Company for their dawn service. The cause of this bond was tragic but Greg would be proud of the result.
So I finish with shalom - and lest we forget.
1 VAJEX was apparently founded, however, in 1929. Its patron is Major General Jeffrey Rosenfeld (Surgeon-General Defence Health Reserves). The Army has one Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Dovid Gutnick, and he is also chaplain to VAJEX.
2 The exact number of Jewish personnel in the 1st AIF is unknown as it was not compulsory to state areligion or denomination on enlistment.
3Actually 8.6 per cent.
4 The battle was fought 06-10 August 1915 but Keysor’s VC is for actions on 07-08 August.
5 Keysor was actually English, having emigrated to Australia in early 1914. He returned to England in the 1930s and is buried there. His VC is in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
6 The ceremony is scheduled for 1030 hours EST.
7 PTE Greg Sher was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, 04 Jan 09 (9thTevet, 5769 in the Jewish calendar). He had previously served on CFTS with 5/7 RAR in East Timor for five months in 2002-03. He transferred from 5/6 RVR to 2 Cdo Coy in 2004.
8 Greg Sher joined VAJEX in 2007. On Remembrance Day that year he recited the 23rd Psalm at the VAJEX ceremony at the War Memorial obelisk in Carlton. Many VAJEX members particularly remember him doing this.
9 Greg Sher was a leading member, and apparently firearms trainer, with the Melbourne Jewish community’s Community Security Group (CSG).
During my address I will go backwards and forwards in time and hopefully inform and entertain you a little and if there is any snoring, please keep it down to a quiet snore.
I grew up in Kew with a high percentage of the Fink Family, while others lived all over Australia. My father and his family were fortunate to be here before the Germans took over Poland.
Along with my brother Ron, I attended Yeshivah College and was one of their worst students. I went to Kew High School where I felt most comfortable and rather than move to the Gelt Belt, went to Preston where I worked as a builder’s labourer. Hairdressing was to become my next venture in order to support my mother and myself, as at that time, my father had died at the untimely age of 58. My brother, who was a hairdresser, had come back from overseas after working with a young fellow called Vidal Sassoon, and told me to get into hairdressing, saying that it’s a good career. After a number of years, I opened shops in David Jones and George’s.
Eventually I did what I thought I would never do and joined the Army. After that, made the decision to join the Federal Police Force, having seeing an ad that the Federal Police were looking for recruits. An appointment was made and after a few interviews, I was accepted. I told my wife that the job would last 12 months, but it lasted 19 years!
At the Australian Federal Police Academy I was introduced to some rigorous exercises, like a 5km run in snowy Canberra weather. On the day we graduated the temperature was 48C. Duties were varied including guarding politicians and embassy people. I was a small Jewish non-six-footer, and was put into the Brawl Squad. My duty was to drive around Canberra to various locations where people had been drinking, and inviting them to leave and spend a night in the cells. You get to meet everybody in Canberra. In fact, everybody there is very important. You will be asked, “Do you know who I am?” and you could be sure that they were about to tell you.
Following that, I was in Accident Investigation which was pretty much, I think, the worst area where I worked. This involved attending serious accidents where you investigated and then had to go to someone’s door and give them the tragic news that a family member has passed away and that they needed to come to identify the body. Following that, we had to attend the morgue and go through the autopsy as well as go to the Coroner’s Court. That’s an area I was very glad to leave. I was sent back to Melbourne after much begging and cajoling, basically saying that I was Jewish and had family back there.
The AFP sent me back to Melbourne to an area which was the virtual CIB (Criminal Investigation Branch)in Jolimont next to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). How much better does it get? You could leave at lunchtime and watch the cricket which was fabulous. Fortunately, I didn’t mention football. The Federal Police HQ was later moved to Latrobe Street in the Melbourne CBD putting an end to the lunchtime pastime.
The Federal Police has a Charter that starts where the other police forces leave off. Whereas State Police deal with summary offences like traffic and other misdemeanours, the Federal Police deal with more serious crimes like counterfeiting, people smuggling, serious tax evasion and, of course drugs, terrorism, family law and so on. One of the interesting jobs that I was given was working with the International Crime Authority. They wanted to bring back the interviewing and charging of potential criminals with war crimes conducted against people from Europe. The legalities discussed in Parliament were quite thorough and intense that gave permission to go ahead; hence that meant meeting a lot of people from all over Australia and interviewing them about their experiences during the war and pressing charges against offenders here in Australia. Eventually, a Jewish QC (Queen’s Counsel) brought up a lot of facts but it was shelved, saying that their memory wasn’t good enough. Not long after, Mr Steven Spielberg started to make the Shoah interviews which were also deemed unsuitable for “this sort of thing.” I am still mystified to this day why it was considered “unsuitable.” I met the organiser about five years later. She asked me why I didn’t apply and my reply was that I did apply. Her response was to say that she was sorry and that it would go through next time. The whole application was shelved after they came to a so-called “wonderful” conclusion.
I worked in the CIB for about four years straight. One thing that began during this time was that I was receiving a lot of calls on a private line, from members of the community. As you are aware, those who join the Service want to save the world as they want to help others. When people would ring I would say to them that if it involved money, I was not interested, see a lawyer. But if it involved family, I was always available. So over a period of 18 years I received around 1,500 calls from members of the community. One of the classic cases was from a couple who said their son was on drugs and that he may have been using cocaine. I went to the house and spoke to the child and then spoke to the parents. I said to the boy to go outside and get a couple of aspirins and two glasses of water and bring them back to me. When the boy left the room I turned to the parents and asked them where they hid the cocaine. They asked what I meant and I explained that their son had seen it and saw them using it and that now he was following their habit. After some discussion it was ascertained that they were using drugs. Half the problems that we discovered in the community were caused where a lot of people had instigated things themselves. When the boy came back with the aspirins and water I told him to give it to his parents, that they needed them.
Following that I went into the Drug Squad and it proved to be a very interesting time. We actually had new legislation granting new powers, new drugs, and so on. What I am imparting to you is not classified and it was all in the Press so you are not getting any new revelations. What actually happened was that we had success with 32 operations, one after the other, which I think in two years netted $2.3 billion worth of drugs on the market. Victoria Police was successful with just $17 million. Victoria Police had a record year with $17.3 million worth of confiscated drugs and we seized $390 million worth at that same time. And this with a total of 80 Federal Police Officers around Australia to carry out this task. Tri-National operations with USA, Bolivia’s National Police Force and us produced good results and we confiscated 20kgs of the stuff which was a record catch at that time. The reports of the warrants that were executed said that the Miami Police seized 2 tons. Bolivia’s National Police found a plantation which exceeded anything that had been seen. This world-wide community aspect started to become terrific. We began working with foreign agencies such as Scotland Yard, Interpol, DEA (USA’s Drug Enforcement Agency), NCA and the Secret Service, etc. These cross-border revelations worked very well. Unfortunately, it also worked in sieges in the Jewish Community where I had little input.
We had our conflicts with the Victorian Police when we started with our last investigation. A Superintendent from Victoria Police Drug Squad wanted to talk to me about working together and a strong working relationship developed after that. In certain units of the armed forces, where some are better than others, all work together to achieve a good result and that’s exactly what happened in law enforcement. I ended up being seconded to the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) for a number of months with great success and was then transferred to the Northern Territory Police for a year which produced great results as well.
Touching on the TV series Underbelly, I worked with the Purana Taskforce. The “Carlton Crew” was an experience in itself. I told my kids that I was one of the original cast.
It was very difficult being a Jew in the Federal Police, not that the Jewish aspect by senior management was a problem. Working with a lot of neo-Nazis in the Force was something of an issue. I took a lot of pride in my Jewish heritage and never missed davening every morning and certainly davened in some unusual places. One of the most memorable was at the Sunshine Football Club first thing in the morning surrounded by broken beer bottles and syringes next to an all-night pokies venue. They asked what I was doing so I answered that praying had to be done at some stage. I told them that a lightning bolt may come from the sky and then we would all be in trouble. So I find great pride in my heritage. People came up to me saying that Hitler should have finished the job or things such as, “fire up the ovens”, and “these Jews are all the same”. Another comment once said to me was that I wasn’t like all other Jews. When I asked how many Jews he had met, the reply was that I was the first. I found other Members extremely polite, inquisitive and very knowledgeable about the Jewish faith, but the interesting fact was that I worked with seven Jewish Members and not one would admit to his religion.
Working with Family Law is where I had the most shotguns pointed at me. Apparently, nobody likes to lose their children to the courts. After that I went to Intelligence for a few years, but the second most interesting area was in surveillance. This involved encompassing undercover roles such as in bikie gangs. We also worked in the Moslem community after 9/11 which involved making friends - because you keep your enemies close. That way we got a lot of information by working with them to find out who were the problem guys.
The biggest case I worked on was Carlos Cabal, the Mexican banker who nearly brought down the Mexican economy. Mexican currency dropped 17% in value overnight. He absconded from Mexico, ran all over the world and everywhere he went was nearly arrested, being missed by a mere 10 minutes! Moving to Australia, my crew managed to find him one morning at Brighton Beach having a walk. We watched his house for three weeks and when we arrested him, he had a Mexican newspaper on the table with an AGE headline. We had great success with him.
The most interesting area I worked in was CPD, Close Protection Division. You will have seen on TV the men with earpieces guarding Prime Ministers and Presidents. That’s exactly what we did. We gave protection to foreign dignitaries, members of Parliament, witness protection and so on. So there were a fair amount of people that we dealt with over the years, including the Royal Family, US Presidents like George Bush Snr and George Bush Jr, a number of Israeli delegates from the Knesset (Parliament) including PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. In the CPD we were trained for demonstrations. You will remember the World Trade Conference in 2000 before the Sydney Olympics when they shut down Crown Tower. There were a few thousand protesters there. I have fond memories of sleeping on a Baccarat table in an empty casino and going back to work three hours later. It was quite an interesting time to be away from home for five days, looking after dignitaries and facing people who wanted to bash you.
Along the way there has been a lot of trouble and I ended up working in East Timor when the fledgling country was handed over by the Indonesians. The AFP was actually the first one in. In the Solomon Islands, we had the SAS sitting on HMAS TOBRUK at Guadalcanal, but the Government’s wish was that 10 AFP Officers went in first. We were to precede the SAS. The Government figured that talk was better than a show of arms which worked quite well. Fiji was another country where we had duties during the time when George Spey decided he didn’t want to go to jail. Colonel Sitivani Rabuka also instigated a coup so we went there to protect Australians, the High Commission and so on. After that I was sent for a short stint to Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan where we have soldiers and was also at Bora Bora. We have also done work with the Chinese and things seem to be getting better and better.
We were sent to Bali after the bombing. At the time I was actually with my younger daughter in the Great Dividing Range. The local store owner came and said to me that I’d better ring Melbourne because bombs had gone off. I travelled to Darwin in a Hercules transport aircraft then changed onto another Hercules for the flight to Bali. The next five days were spent at the bomb site and we ferried people backwards and forwards to Darwin Hospital, seeing the most horrific injuries you can imagine. At the Darwin Hospital a local woman said to me that I’d better come down to Casualty immediately. I noticed five rather big gentlemen standing with arms folded and I asked if I could help them. They replied that they were there to help and I asked who they were. The reply was that they were brothers and that nobody was going to stand in their way. I had just the job for them saying that we had trouble with the Press - they are like seagulls and I needed them moved away from here. “Leave it to us,” was the reply. This group stood there for four days and they did their job well.
l also managed to nearly get shot by the TNI (Indonesian Military police). At the bomb site they would march up and down for the benefit of the Press so I told them to get out of the crime scene and they didn’t want to. The TNI drew their weapons on me and I called to the Channel 9 film crew saying that they had better film this as it would make a good story. We ended up working at the site for five days, setting up our own HQ at Police headquarters; our investigation lasted for nine months. We took 9,000 statements and looked at 3,000 rolls of film as well as 1,000 videos so were able to ascertain who was involved in the bombing. As you will remember from the reports, the Indonesians allegedly executed the perpetrators and had built a bridge between the law enforcement agencies and intelligence.
Back in Canberra I worked on a Booze Bus at one stage. The bus had just been packed up and all cars were sent away. We sat and reminded ourselves about the day’s activities. A car came along Northbourne Avenue, in and out of traffic, tooting his horn and giving rude signs to other drivers. We decided we had to pick him up but we didn’t have to. He went 100 metres, stopped and reversed. He pulled up outside the Booze Bus, opened his door and staggered over to the Sergeant and said, “I will have half-a-dozen Jim Beans, please.”
Another story that may or may not be true is about a gentleman coming home from a party late one night who decides to pull over at the Booze Bus. He is taken inside and breathalysed. There is a call on the radio and everyone disappears. He waits. Nothing happens. He gets into his car and goes home and off he goes to sleep. There is a knock on his door. Two police officers ask him, “Did you go to a party tonight?”
“How did you get home?”
“Mine.” “Where is it?”
“In the garage.”
“Do you mind opening the garage?”
In the garage was a brand new police car!
When I joined the Army I made a lot of friends, as well as a lot in the Victoria Police and the SES (State Emergency Services). I got involved with Petroleum and we travelled around refuelling military vehicles on exercises in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. We also refuelled the Sea King and Blackhawk helicopters. We travelled all around Australia on military exercises and saw most of the Northern Territory, Queensland and most of Western Australia. One of the other duties we were required to do was firefighting, putting out chemical fires and we were regarded highly by the Military Brass.
At one stage when we were working with the Americans and were on the same landing strip, they wouldn’t talk to us. We didn’t know what was going on and were determined to make them talk to us. I devised a plan. One of our young soldiers brought a rechargeable electric shaver that could work for three weeks before it needed a recharge. I went to our RAEME (Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) guys asking for a power point cover, a couple of screws and a screwdriver. The next morning I put a towel over my shoulder and went to a large tree and proceeded to screw in the power point.
The Americans watched me. “Hey, Aussie, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” I answered.
“But, it’s a tree,” said the Yank.
“This is a big Bow-Apple tree, you plug it in and it works.” I answered. “The apples are full of water and when the sun hits it, it generates electricity, making the shaver work.”
“That’s amazing,” said the Yank.
“Will you lend the power point to us?”
I went back to my tent and the Yank called out, “It isn’t working.”
“Different voltage,” I replied.
After that, the Americans spoke to us. Some of the white Southern States guys thought they were better than their troops. But, we had a good relationship with the Americans.
I brought some memorabilia for you to see; my service medals and those of my father from World War Two, who fought on Kokoda and Burma and some books which were given to him during the war.
In conclusion, I’d like to convey to you that family is very important when you come home.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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Peter Fink was born in Melbourne, educated at Yeshiva College and Kew High School, predominately raised in Kew in the folds of the ever-growing Fink clan.
He has had a few career changes including having a trade as a builder’s labourer, a hairdresser, a member of the Australian Defence Force as a petroleum operator in 1 Petroleum Coy and was a member of the Australian Federal Police.
Peter served in the Army for five years and the Australian Federal Police for just under 19 years. In the years with the AFP, he served overseas in various locations including East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Cambodia and Afghanistan. He also served in Bali as a result of the Bali bombing.
Peter has lived in most States and Territories in Australia but has chosen Melbourne as a preferred place of residence due to religious and family needs
Along the way, Peter managed to raise a family of four children. One of his children is currently serving in the Australia Defence Force as a Lieutenant in the Army, making him the third generation of the Fink family to serve in the ADF.
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I am proud, and extremely humbled, to be asked to address you today. Having attended these and other VAJEX functions over the years and having heard some extraordinary speakers. Today, we are gathered to commemorate Remembrance Day, the 11thof the 11th 1918.
Our first purpose is to remember. Remember the dead, the wounded, and those in many ways affected by the Great War - the “War to end all Wars”. We are also here to celebrate. Not a victory, but the conclusion of four years of carnage. I wonder, on this day in 1918, how the war weary world could have contemplated that within two decades the process of death and destruction would begin all over again. The thought must surely have been beyond comprehension.
I intend today, on giving you a brief year by year description of the painful years 1914 to 1918. I then hope to be able to introduce an individual who played an important role in the final outcome. It is not my intention to comment on the causes of this conflict. I will leave well alone. Let me commence:
• War declared, battles of Somme, Verdun, Passchendale. At the Somme the British losses, as assessed by their leaders “were the greatest of any wartime army at that time.”
• The first battle of Ypres.
• 17th August the Russians attacked East Prussia, meaning that Germany had to fight on two fronts.
• November, Britain declared war on Turkey.
• From an Australian viewpoint, a combined Naval and Military expedition captured the German wireless station at Bita Paka, Rabaul, and lost one of its two submarines.
• Bombing of Great Britain by Zeppelins begins. German submarines appear.
• The Dardanelles Campaign. An ill-conceived plan to remove Turkey from the war. Conducted by British, French, Indian, Australian and New Zealand troops. 200,000 lives lost, including 8,000 Australians.
• The second Battle of Ypres.
• Italy joins the Allies in May.
• A Peace attempt by the USA fails.
• The battle of Verdun goes all year.
• The naval battle of Jutland.
• Allied forces involved in exploits in the Middle East. Forces surrender at Kut.
• The River Somme offensive in July, designed to take the heat off Verdun. 57,000 British (including Australian) casualties. A stalemate.
• German commanders latter admitted, “the Somme was t
he muddy grave of the German Field Army”.
• Tanks used successfully by the British for the first time.
• The last effective year of Russia as a war power.
• Food rationing.
• Women employed in what had been male only tasks.
• 1916 also saw, of course, the Battle of Fromelles of which we have heard so much recently.
• “U” boat warfare on Britain and France unrestricted.
• US enters the war on 6th April after five US ships had been sunk.
• Russian Revolution starts.
• British successful at Arras.
• Canadians successful at Vimy Ridge.
• Mutiny in some of the French forces.
• British successful at Messines Ridge.
• Royal Flying Corps pilots had a life expectancy in the line of between 11 days and three weeks.
• Ypres campaign concluded with the loss of 245,000 British and 8,500 French troops.
• Familiar place names like Polygon Wood, Menin Road, Fleurbaix and Flanders become etched in the minds of soldiers and civilians alike.
• The battle of Cambrai with tanks a huge success.
• Jerusalem captured by the Allies.
• The US again try for peace with a 14 point plan.
• Both sides were in poor shape but neither prepared
to give way.
• American involvement was close at hand.
• Germans launched “Operation Michael” in an effort to advance prior to the Americans’ arrival. Germans advanced 40 miles, but Amiens out of reach. Germans reached the Marne River, but the Allies recaptured it and held it to the end.
• The Allied push from Amiens was described by Luden dorff as “The black day of the German Army”.
• The Hindenburg Line breached on 29th September.
• Damascus captured on the 1stOctober.
• Armistice arranged for 1100 hours on the 11th November.
• Sadly, despite rumours and official news reports, the killing continued. Unbelievably, there were 10,944 casualties, including 2,738 dead by 11am. The last Allied soldier to die was an American Henry Gunther who was killed attacking German troops who knew of the cease-fire arranged for 11.00. Henry died at 10.59.
• The Treaty of Versailles signed on 29th June 1919, hence to some it is the 1914 -1919 War.
In searching for an individual to exemplify commitment, courage, resolve and impact on the Great War, I looked at a number of options. Should I choose a Parliamentarian - perhaps William Maurice “Billy” Hughes, the Australian Prime Minister? Should I choose General Birdwood, although not an Australian, admired and respected by his Australian troops. He was so highly regarded that after the war, Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills and Birdwoodton near Mildura were named after him.
What about H E “Pompey” Elliott, a good leader? Perhaps a Victoria Cross winner, such as Captain Albert Jacka?
In all seriousness, I really had only one choice: General Sir John Monash.
My decision was not based on sentiment, although I realise many amongst you would know of him, and his achievements far better than I could imagine.
Born in 1865 in West Melbourne, Sir John was educated at Scotch College, and at 16 entered the Faculty of Arts at Melbourne University. He took out the degree of Bachelor of Engineering, qualified in Law and took out the degrees of BA and LLB. During his university years he enlisted in, and progressed through the ranks of the militia. He was acknowledged as a lecturer i n technical military subjects. In 1913 he accepted the command of the 13th Infantry Brigade, with the rank of Colonel.
In December 1914, he left Australia in command of the 4 th Infantry Brigade. He led this Brigade at Gallipoli with method and cool deliberation. 1916 saw him summoned to England where he trained the Third Australian Division, before taking it to France. His courage was tested time and again, with the Australians at the forefront of the fighting.
In June 1918, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and given command of all five divisions of the Australian Army Corps. At various times he also commanded a British Division, two Canadian and two American Divisions, thus becoming the first British General to have US troops under his command. In the last days of September 1918, he had 208,000 troops under his command.
Speaking of Monash, the Prime Minister of England Lloyd George made a historic statement: “The only General of any note thrown up in World War I on the Allied side, was a colonial soldier and, had the war lasted a little longer, he would have been made Commander- in-Chief of the British Army.”
Probably his greatest achievement, apart from reaching such an exalted rank, was that through his planning and great Generalship, he obtained a speedy conclusion to the conflict, with a minimum of casualties to our side; something that other Generals had not seen as a priority.
In his 2007 biography of General Sir John Monash, author Roland Perry titled his book: “Monash - The Outsider Who, Won A War”. What an accolade.
After the War’s end, Sir John stayed in Britain as the Director General of Repatriation and Demobilisation until December 1919.
When he returned to Australia after the War, there were more than 30,000 people to greet him. It was about the same number who mourned his final journey to Brighton Cemetery in 1931.
General Sir John Monash was honoured by government s, universities, professorial associations and community organisations and adored by the public who saw him as a leader, statesman and example - in today’s terminology, a “Role Model”. I am confident that he would be very pleased to see this gathering today remembering the past, but looking to the future. In recent years, we have seen noisy, misguided individuals and groups trying to have us re-write Australia’s history, particularly its military involvements. Some of it is not pleasant reading, but it is our history, not some sanitised version to appease the politically correct. We must challenge ourselves to maintain our traditions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. They were important in 1915 and 1918. They are equally important and relevant today.
Whilst we have organisations such as VAJEX, the RSL, Legacy and Unit Associations, I am completely assured that our youth and those to follow them, will remember the sacrifices that others have made on their behalf.
Before I close, I must thank my wife Diane, my proof-reader, editor, judge and jury for her assistance with this presentation. She has been of immeasurable help.
Thank you for listening, and for your patience.
Storer, Captain S, “The War To End War, Sunraysian Newspaper Services Pty Ltd, Swan Hill, 1977.
Perry, Roland, “Monash, The Outsider Who Won A War”, Random House, Australia, 2007.
Neillands, Robin, “The Great War Generals On The Western Front 1914-1918”, Magpie Books, London, 2004.
Geoff was born, raised and educated in the Sunraysia area. His father was a veteran of the Second World War, and his maternal grandfather was gassed in France during the First World War.
In 1965 at the age of 16, Geoff was accepted for the Victoria Police Cadet Scheme. This was something akin to an apprenticeship, with classroom studies and “on the job” training at suburban police stations, courts and police facilities.
He graduated as a constable in October 1967 then followed a varied career in 3 Division of the Force. General duties (uniform) activities at Russell Street, Northcote, Preston, Brunswick and again at Russell Street. Criminal Investigation duties at the Dealers Squad, and Homicide Squad and Traffic Branch duties in Brunswick, Calder Highway Patrol and Korumburra Traffic Operations Group.
Late in his career he specialised in planning and coordinating large crowd control events such as football, soccer, political protests and overseas VIP visits.
During these 32 years, he was promoted through the ranks, and reached the rank of Inspector.
He retired, medically unfit, in 1996.
In 1984, Geoff joined the Watsonia RSL, simply for its social benefits. However, in 1993 he was coerced into nominating for a committee position. Over the next 17 years, he held the positions of committeeman, Vice President, President and Treasurer.
He also became involved with State Branch affairs and has chaired the State Branch Tribunal and State Advisory Council, along with membership of a large number of Committees.
Currently, he chairs the Kindred Organisations & Unit Associations Committee, which is a major contributor to the conduct of the ANZAC Day activities each year.
At Watsonia RSL, he is responsible to the Committee for publicity, community liaison and memorabilia.
Geoff's military service was brief, and, as he described it, “unspectacular”. In 1968 he joined 1 Communication Zone Provost Company, attained the rank of Temporary Corporal, which he held for the next four years. He believes, in hindsight, that he should have joined another unit, as he was “knocking off work to carry bricks” - much the same work, in another uniform.
For service to his State in the Police Force, Geoff was awarded the National Medal, with 25 Year Bar, and the Victorian Police Service Medal with 25 year Bar.
From the Returned and Services League, he was awarded Life Membership in 2000, and at this year's RSL State Conference was awarded Life Membership with a Gold Badge.
President of VAJEX, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, students,
I am honoured to be invited to address the association’s Anzac commemorative service today as Chief Executive of the Shrine of Remembrance.
I am pleased to acknowledge the ongoing role of the association which perpetuates and honours the memory of Jewish men and women in the armed services of Australia in the World Wars and in all other conflicts in which Australia has been engaged. I am pleased also to acknowledge that the Australian Jews and the association have a long association with the Shrine of Remembrance. From the Boer war and the subsequent two world wars, as well as in other conflicts and peacekeeping activities, Australian Jews have served the nations cause with a great spirit of loyalty and genuine patriotism.
And I should add that there are Jewish men and women currently serving in the Australian Defence Force on deployment and at home and some on peacekeeping duties with the UN.
Of course that great citizen soldier, lawyer and engineer, General Sir John Monash, was instrumental in convincing the government of the day to build our Shrine of Remembrance. He said there was a no more fitting memorial than the Shrine for the hundreds of thousands of families affected by the horror of the Great War. He also served on the committee that first proposed such a monument, chose the design and the architects, and even decided where and how it was to be built. He had a massive personal and professional investment in the completion of the shrine.
In that regard, I am pleased that we have developed an ongoing strategic relationship with Monash University that now sees an annual Monash exhibition displayed in the visitor centre that recognises his contribution to the Shrine but importantly informs the thousands of visitors to the shrine of Monash’s valuable contribution our community.
I should also add that this association has loaned us the Paul Montford bust of Monash for use in our Monash exhibition which we are most grateful.
Can I also reflect on Anzac Day - our national day of commemoration? It is the day Australians remember the original landing on Gallipoli in 1915, 95 years ago last Sunday. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. At this time, the service of our veterans is acknowledged in ceremonies held in towns and cities across the nation, and of course overseas from Gallipoli to Villers Bretonneux, hellfire pass and Kokoda. The ever-growing attendances in all places testify to Anzac Day’s significance for all Australians.
It is the day we remember that 420,000 young Australians volunteered to fight in World War One; that 330,000 or so of those actually did so, and of those, 60,000 or so were killed, and another 160,000 wounded (and the 60,000 which subsequently died within 10 years of their return as a result of their service).
It is also the day we also should remember the valiant efforts of the 2ndAIF and the CMF, in the Middle East and in Papua New Guinea and other areas of the South Pacific, combined with the sufferings of Australian POWs, is further confirmation of the relevance of war in Australian history, and the standing and importance of those who fought it.
We can only imagine the extent of the human sacrifice and the loved ones sorrow that the deaths of so many Australians occurred somewhere else in the world. It is hard to imagine that 100,000 Australians are buried overseas, many in unmarked graves, many of which have never been visited by their loved ones. We should remember that no relatives were allowed to bring the bodies home or to make graves of their own on or near battlefields. All identifiable bodies were buried in cemeteries containing a stone of remembrance and a cross of sacrifice under uniform headstones placed in straight rows as if still on parade with strictly controlled inscriptions.
No one can express all that this day means to us Australians and of course the New Zealanders, the other half of the Anzac tradition. It is said Australia’s great historian Manning Clark, ‘about something too deep for words’.
From the first Anzac Day in 1916, the people of this nation understood what sort of memory was required. They got it right from the beginning. They knew out of Gallipoli there was no flag waving glory; rather our remembrance would be of the rigors of war and the courage of ordinary citizens in extraordinary circumstances. It is the story of a peaceful democracy, a reluctant nation paradoxically drawn back to the battlefield time and time again.
In 2010, there is another aspect to our remembrance. Today’s Australia is a nation of many colours and languages. But we do not need to look too far to find a connection.
After all, the people of the empire today’s India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma and Afghanistan, to name a few of the crimson coloured countries of the old world map were allies in the two World Wars as was China.
And our diversity and openness gains even richer meaning when we contemplate that our once enemies Japan, Germany, Turkey and Italy are today some of our strongest partners and friends.
Indeed it is a proud part of our national character that we accept only a very light burden of patriotism. The larrikins who went to war would not have wanted it any other way.
But what must never change is our basic national duty of remembrance: an agreed part of the social compact in a nation that asks very little of its citizens.
What is certain is that hundreds of thousands of Australian families mourn a loss in their own way today. Certainly there are Australian children who will cry tonight for a dad lost in Afghanistan. The Australian story embraces them all.
And again last Sunday, the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne 40,000 Victorians remembered.
Whilst the Shrine will always honour the fallen and the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women, and is our most significant cultural and heritage asset, the challenge is that it must be relevant to future generations; that is accessible to the veteran community, the elderly and disabled, be engaging and dynamic for the younger generation and a destination for the international and interstate visitor.
I was first asked by the chairman in 2000 to assist the new board of trustees who were confronting a series of challenges to bring the Shrine of Remembrance into the 21st Century.
We devised a staged, long-term master strategy for the shrine and the 13 hectare Shrine reserve. The strategy outlined future development of the Shrine so its full potential as an educational facility could be realised and also recognising its significance as a tourist attraction in the city, while its integrity as a place of remembrance and its heritage significance could still be maintained.
The path of that strategy has been greatly assisted by the enormous contribution by Wing Cdr Peter Isaacson, AM, DFC, AFC, DFM, who has not only provided 54 years of service to the Shrine from 1956 as a Trustee, Chairman of Trustees and Life Governor but also it was Peter’s Chairmanship, vision and energy that led to the major restoration works in the 1990’s and the early concept work on the galleries of remembrance that set the foundations for the current trustees to be able to effectively proceed with the visitor centre development in 2003.
The visitor centre; originally intended simply to improve access for those who could not manage the imposing set of stairs leading to the Sanctuary of the Shrine, the centre has succeeded in making the Shrine more accessible to many more.
We thought optimistically, it might lead, within a few years, to a doubling of our visitation rate. In fact we achieved that goal within 12 months of opening. Visitation has grown from 275,000 in 2002 to approximately 600,000 in 2009.
Interestingly, the visitor profile is typically of Australian origin, an even spread of males and females and strongly represented in the 20 to 34 year old age bracket. Visitor research also tells us we are attracting a good spread of interstate and international visitors - in fact, 30% of our visitors are from overseas. Our research also shows extremely high satisfaction rates amongst visitors.
The appointment of a management team which commenced in 2003, and the expansion of our volunteer force from 25 to 100 (with a waiting list) has allowed for new initiatives which contribute to a more informative, responsive and educational visitor experience. Another milestone was reached in November 2004 with the launch of our education program. We believe the shrine holds enormous untapped potential to contribute to future social cohesion, sense of purpose and shared goals within our community.
Our aim is bold; we would like to see that every Victorian schoolchild visits the shrine at least once during their primary years, and once during their secondary years.
The education program is directly linked to the Victorian school curriculum fostering ‘values education’ and keeping the Anzac spirit alive. It is also linked to the national framework for values education. Since its implementation, school visits have increased by 400%. In 2009 over 40,000 students visited us. We have an education team supported by 15 volunteers and Metlink provide us with $40,000 per annum to support disadvantaged schools to visit the shrine or our travelling exhibition in regional centres. Because our education centre has now reached capacity we have now commenced an outreach program to country Victoria. Only two weeks ago, we delivered the program to 500 students from Stawell and Ararat supported by local veterans.
The Trustees are committed to education and ensuring the traditions and values established by our veterans are passed onto future generations and I am pleased that the government also recognise this and the Shrine of Remembrance act is currently being amended to incorporate education as a core function alongside commemoration.
Can I say that the Shrine education program is not about conveying messages of war and horror, but rather providing students with a moving experience that has the potential to shape their values and attitudes, and help them become more informed of past events and Australian history that helped to shape this nation and culture and assist them to be more socially aware citizens in the future.
Our Australian servicemen and women became known around the world for their endurance, loyalty, mateship, leadership, courage and humour in the face of adversity. It is these qualities along with the steadfastness of those on the home front, that helped form our national identity and spirit, and it is these qualities that we want to pass onto the youth of tomorrow.
The program also encourages return visits and extension activities students can do in their own communities with veterans. We are also conscious that not all in the Victorian community are able to visit the Shrine of Remembrance so in November 2006 we launched the history of the shrine travelling exhibition in Hamilton. Whilst it was intended to travel for three years we have had to add two years to the program because of community demand. This response only underlines to us that the Shrine is the memorial for all Victorians: for the old and the young; for males and females; for Australian born and for the multi-cultural communities.
We have also developed a detailed proposal for the next stage of development. Our vision is to utilise the remaining Undercroft space of the Shrine for galleries of remembrance that further explain Victorian service in war, peacekeeping, and on the home front.
Our aspirations now lie in the hands and the in-trays of those responsible for the state and the nation’s fiscal resources.
It is our hope we can complete the Galleries of Remembrance for the centenary of Anzac in 2015. Whilst these discussions with government have been ongoing for some years we continue to plan improvements for the benefit of veterans and the community - and meet some major new challenges.
The casting of a replica of the cobber’s statue situated in the Shrine reserve (funded by Tattersall’s George Adams foundation and the State of Victoria) is one of those improvements.
The battle of Fromelles was the worst 24 hours in Australian history resulting in 5533 Australian casualties including 2000 dead on 19 July 1916. Such a significant moment in history and one that has been recognised in the Shrine reserve with only the second casting in the world of ‘cobbers’ representing a digger carrying a wounded mate.
The statue is about mateship, compassion, about courage and about cobbers. It is an Australian and Victorian story and not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Fromelles to reflect on the tragedy and humanity of war.
It is important that Cobbers came to Melbourne and the Shrine of Remembrance and it will stand for all the Anzac virtues including mateship, compassion and courage as well as the lesson of Fromelles.
I can add that our temporary exhibition program and public lecture program have been enormously successful and later this month we will open an indigenous Australians at war exhibition - the first exhibition in Australia commemorating Indigenous Australian service and sacrifice.
In August the Australian war memorial travelling exhibition - the company of brave men Gallipoli VC’s - will open at the Shrine. The Victoria crosses awarded at Lone Pine to the nine Australians will be on display. Five of those recipients were Victorians: Albert Jacka, Frederick Tubb, Alexander Burton, William Dunstan and William Symons.
For your information, Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor was one of those awarded Victoria Cross at Lone Pine and one of the estimated 300 Australian Jews who fought on Gallipoli. Keysor won his Victoria Cross during the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915. By that time he had become a master bomb thrower; during the days and nights of the battle, he proved his skill time and again. As Turkish bombs landed in his trench, Keysor would smother the explosions with sandbags or clothing. If he had time, he would throw the bombs back - on several occasions he even caught them in mid-flight before lobbing them back into the Turkish trenches. He was twice wounded but refused medical aid, maintaining his efforts for 50 hours. His actions saved the trench and removed the enemy from the position.
From Gallipoli, Keysor went on to serve in France, where he was twice promoted, and twice wounded in 1918. He had always considered himself a Londoner and he returned to Britain to live after the war. He died there in October 1951.
Finally, when we opened the visitor centre in 2003, the first words we wanted our visitors to see and read were ‘Lest We Forget'‘. On the opposite wall, so placed that it is the last message we want our visitors to take away with them are the words of Sir William Deane spoken on Anzac day 1999. They aptly sum up the meaning of Anzac and hopefully are a lasting memory of their experience at the Shrine.
“Anzac is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth in the face of dreadful odds.”
I appreciate the opportunity to speak at your Anzac commemoration service today and thank you for your association’s ongoing support of the Shrine of Remembrance.
In case some of you are wondering what ‘Light Horse’ represents, it’s not midgets on a Shetland pony. It’s a lightly armed (rifle and bayonet) mounted riflemen. The Australians were never trained infantry. Most were horseman who were good shots, and could wield a bayonet, and later in the war, a sword. The British Cavalry, who fought alongside them, were trained soldiers who could ride. The main battlefield commander in the Middle East conflict of World War One, where this book is mainly set, was an Australian Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel. At the peak of the war he had 34,000 troopers and cameleers under his command. 65 per cent were ANZACs. The rest were British and Indians. It was the biggest such force in history, bigger than anything that Napoleon ever put in the field, and far more powerful with the armaments it had.
The prime legacy of the Light Horse was to end the Ottoman Empire - the reign of the Turks - in the Middle East. In all there were four noteworthy legacies that rolled out over the next 90 years. The second legacy was the creation of the circumstances for the development of independent Arab states; the third was laying out the conditions for Jewish migration into the Middle East - near impossible before the defeat of the Turks at Gaza-Beersheba in early November 1917; and the coincident signing of the Balfour Declaration of early November 1917. In a nutshell, this official British ‘statement’ said, that under expected British rule in Palestine, increased Jewish migration could occur there.
Without the Light Horse defeating the Turks, there would be no British control or mandate. Without British control or mandate there could be no Jewish migration, and in the future, no Israel.
A fourth legacy was the development of easy access to oil for the swallowing up by rapacious Western societies over the next 90 years.
In literature, films, articles and exhibitions over the last 90 years, Lawrence and the Arabs - NOT THE LIGHT HORSE - have dominated and taken credit for the end of the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) in the Middle East in World War 1, 1914-1918. Lean’s film, surely one of the finest classics of the 20th century, and the mighty performance of Peter O’Toole, have much to do with it. So has T E Lawrence’s literary masterpiece Seven Pillars of Wisdom, on which Lean’s movie was based.
In reality, Lawrence and Harry Chauvel, half-way through the war came under the same Commander in Chief, General Sir Edmund Allenby (played by Jack Hawkins in Lean’s movie.) The defining moment for a chance at victory against the ruling Ottoman (Turkish) Empire in the Middle East occurred not on the battlefield, but in Allenby’s Cairo office early in July 1917. Allenby had been kicked out of the more important Western Front by his rivals in the British Army. He was shipped off to command the sideshow war in the Middle East. Allenby was downcast and irritable when he arrived. But within a week or so his attitude changed. He met the two most important commanders in the Middle East. In the movie, we only see one of them: the puckish, jut-jawed Lawrence, wearing sandals and Arab dress, who paddled his way into Allenby’s office and announced that he and a contingent of Arabs had just ‘taken’ Aqaba in Southern Arabia. He claimed he could garner the Arabs tribes on Allenby’s right flank to aid in the defeat of the Turks in a push north to Damascus.
But a far more important meeting, which you did not see in the movie, happened within days of the encounter with Lawrence: that was when Allenby met Harry Chauvel. Allenby was impressed by the fine-boned, diminutive Australian’s demeanour and his impeccable record. Where other generals were more bluster than substance, Chauvel was measured and laconic. Allenby himself was bull-like in manner terrorising his staff and officers. But this tactic could not work with the self-possessed Chauvel.
Allenby eventually promoted him above all the other Generals in his Middle East army and put him in charge of the formidable Deserted Mounted Corps. It was the dominant field Commander’s role. The appointment was controversial. Chauvel leap-frogged over several worthy British Generals. His success or failure would define Allenby’s own level of accomplishment after his humiliating ‘demotion,’ and his place in history.
Allenby was rejuvenated. He had met two different styles of commanders, one whose record and manner suggested he could lead the offensive to destroy those two Turkish Armies in Palestine and Syria; the other promising to provide a hit-and-run guerrilla force of local inhabitants. They would disrupt a third Turkish Army parked in hundreds of forts on the vital Hejaz Railway, which ran from Syria in the north to deep into Southern Arabia.
Chauvel sent the Australian 4th Light Horse to take Beersheba in the daring six kilometre bayonet charge of 800 mounted riflemen. Against all odds, they smashed through the Turkish lines of 4800 soldiers, ignoring all weapons fire and attempts to stop the horses in the late afternoon blitz.
The breakthrough and taking of Beersheba opened the way for the Army to defeat the Turks at Gaza a few days later. This in turn delivered the opportunity for Allenby to direct Chauvel and Lawrence to command their respective forces towards Damascus. It would take nearly another year. In that time, one army of Turks and Germans were pushed north up the Mediterranean Coast. Another enemy army was shoved north east over the Jordan River.
Once Chauvel and his force had pushed the Turks back up the Mediterranean Coast by late 1917, he based his Desert Mounted Corps HQ at Khurbet Deiran (now Rehovoth), a pleasant Jewish village, seven kilometres inland and south-east of Jaffa. It had abundant olive and orange groves and vineyards that extended to sea and for 13 km north-west. There was plenty of water in area.
Jewish settlers were mainly from Southern Russia with a minority from Romania, Spain, Britain, and the US and even Australia.
The Jewish population had built towards 10% of Palestine population of 700,000. There were also about 70,000 Christians - Orthodox Church who spoke Arabic. About 80% - 560,000 - were Muslim, of whom only a small percentage were Bedouin. Most Jews had entered the country since 1880 (starting with a trickle - a few hundred - in 1850). Russian Pogroms led to a greater influx. The migrants began agriculture, with an emphasis on citrus fruits mainly oranges around Jaffa. They cultivated the vine and exported wine; they drained swamps; they planted Eucalyptus. There were more than 60 Agricultural Settlements by 1917; local Arabs resented the intrusion. The new settlers ran into the fury of the Young Turks, who developed a policy of action (genocide in the case of the Armenians) against all non-Turks.
But then the Light Horse made the Beersheba breakthrough and everything changed forever, and for the better for the settlers.
The Australian historian for the Middle East War, Henry Gullett, noted:
‘The sense of straight-planted streets, the little white houses with their red roofs and gay gardens; and the wide, rolling orchards and vineyards along the sand-hills, were an unfeigned delight to those simple, veteran campaigners.’
At KHURBET DEIRAN, Chauvel occupied the empty house of a Perth businessman, who had returned to Perth for the duration of the war.
On 22 September 1918 from the orange groves of Jaffa, Chauvel’s Light Horse force galloped through a breach opened up in the Turkish 8thArmy lines by the British Army. The Light Horse swept across the plains of Armageddon in northern Palestine (now Israel) to Lebanon and Syria, destroying most of the two Turkish armies (the 7thand 8th) with back up from the British infantry and air force, including the Australian Flying Corps.
In the meantime, Lawrence and the Arabs stepped up attacks on a third Turkish Army on the important Hejaz railway, harassing it constantly and distracting the enemy force from helping their beleaguered comrades in the 7thand 8tharmies further west. By the end of the week to 29 September, the cavalry had ridden to aid the Arabs in their battles with the remaining Turkish force in Jordan.
On the night of 30 September 1918, the Light Horse and the Arabs were poised in two different camps outside Damascus, ready for the most important strike in the Middle East War. Taking the Syrian capital would be the precursor to pushing the Turks north and back over the border into Turkey. But there was a problem. Twenty thousand Turkish soldiers were believed to be in two garrisons, one on the town’s outskirts; another in the Damascus itself. The Arabs were reluctant to storm the city, despite a growing number having already infiltrated its precincts in the previous few days. Their fighting style was ‘hit, hinder and hide,’ not to hit head on as the Light Horse preferred.
There was also confusion about what Chauvel and his Light Horse force was meant to do. Uncharacteristically, Allenby (travelling 100 kilometres behind the front) had been vague in his directives to Chauvel, whom he had left to devise the plan for the Cavalry’s sweep through to Syria and the conquering of Damascus.
Chauvel was told to make contact with Lawrence, who would guide him. But Lawrence was nowhere to be found. Allenby was under British Government orders to let it seem as if the Arabs had taken Damascus. Their attempt here was to keep open the chance to double-cross the French, who were also in on the proposed carve up of the Middle East once the Turks were forced out. The French had been promised Syria. But Lawrence and some members of the British Government wanted to keep them out.
This scheme was never conveyed to Chauvel, except that his horsemen should surround Damascus but not enter and take it, unless it was absolutely necessary to contain the Turks. The British deception backfired because of the diligence of the all-conquering Light Horse. They blocked off every artery into Damascus, but they could not find a route to the road north from the city. The only way to block it was to go through the Damascus.
At 5 am on 1 October 1918, a 400 strong contingent of the West Australian 10th Light Horse, commanded by Colonel A C N Olden, set out from the Barada Gorge, 30 kilometres west of Damascus. Chauvel had chosen the 10thfor this mission especially. This mighty regiment had been decimated (along with Victoria’s 8th Light Horse) on Gallipoli at the Battle of the Nek. Three years on and after 26 major cavalry battles, Chauvel wanted the 10th to have the honour, if there was to be any conquest of Damascus, the ultimate prize.
En route they captured a train full of Turks and a cache of gold. They were shot at by Turks in the 12,000 strong garrison outside the town. But the Turks inside it were in no physical state to take on even a few hundred Light Horse. Their leader, Mustafa Kemal, had fled north in the hope of fighting another day. Seeing this, the troops thundered on into Damascus, where they were greeted as conquering heroes by the populous.
The Turks in the city had either fled or were holed up in a garrison with no intention or capacity to fight. Olden stopped his column at Government Hall and hurried into the building with three lieutenants to find the Governor. They found an official welcoming party led by Emir Said, who the Turks had left in charge. He was very keen to surrender Damascus, expecting to be retained as Governor. Olden, showing presence of mind and flair, accepted the formal surrender. He was aware (cynically) that he was now in the line of some of the great names in history, including Egypt’s Rameses 11, Greece’s Alexander and France’s Napoleon. Once ordained as Syria’s new conqueror, he left in a hurry, leading the column north in pursuit of the Kemal and his escaping force.
When Lawrence arrived with his cut-throat band of bodyguards and other Arab leaders two hours later, he was shocked and angered to find Emir Said, not his choice, in charge of the city. Using force, he over-turned the situation and appointed an Arab as Governor.
Chauvel sent a crack Regiment in to stop the rioting and looting in the city. A day later when order was restored and the bazaars open, he sent a parade of his force into the city to show where the real power lay in the overthrow of the Turks. Lawrence was incensed at this but had to bow to Chauvel’s superior rank and influence.
Allenby arrived on 3 October for one of his quick, decisive conferences. It included Chauvel, Prince Feisal (the son of Arabia’s ruler Sharif Hussein) and Lawrence. The Commander-in-Chief cut to the salient points. Allenby told them that the French were to have Syria, and that Feisal was to administrate it. He would have no part in controlling the Lebanon or Palestine. Feisal was furious. But he could do nothing until the Middle East was officially carved up at the Paris Peace conference in a few months time, early in 1919. He had to obey Allenby’s dictates. Feisal was most upset and left the meeting. That left Lawrence. He was badly compromised by the decisions regarding French control and the impotency of the Arabs. He said he would have to go back to England, which he did right then.
Chauvel told the Chief he thought he had been ‘a little hard’ on Lawrence. Allenby relented saying he would arrange an audience for him with the King (George V), and write to the British Foreign Office on his behalf so that he could explain ‘the Arab point of view.’
As a last gesture of goodwill after days of tension between the two, Chauvel gave Lawrence a Rolls Royce for the long drive back to Cairo and an exit from the war. That scene of him leaving in the Rolls is the only bit in Damascus that is authentic.
Lawrence wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom four years later: ‘I have come to feel that the trouble between us [he and Chauvel] was a delusion of the ragged nerves which were gangling me to distraction these days. Chauvel won the last round.’
The Australian and his Light Horse also won the entire contest against the Turks. Over the next four weeks, Chauvel pursued them, pushing Mustafa Kemal north over the Turkish border.
This ended 400 years of Ottoman rule in the Middle East and was the prime legacy of Chauvel and Light Horse’s success.
To recapitulate, the three other legacies were:
1. the transfer of power in Palestine from the Turks to the British. Thus the precursor conditions were in place for the eventual State of Israel 30 years later in 1948;
2. the creation of Arab States. The Turks, if still in control of the Middle East, would never have allowed the development of Arab States; and
3. the access to oil in the Middle East - the fuel for the development of rapacious Western countries for nearly the next century.
It is an honour for me to be asked to address your 2009 Remembrance Day Service.
I have visited a lot of War Cemeteries and Cenotaphs in Gallipoli, France, England, the Memorial at Runnymede and in the last few weeks, the Bitabaka War Cemetery at Rabaul. As always, I left very emotionally distressed. I cannot help but be upset, particularly when I read the young ages at which many of these servicemen lost their lives.
At Bitabatak, there are about 1,000 graves, a surprising number marked by an unnamed headstone. Many of those buried were non-combatant, logistic and administrative personnel who were executed rather than being treated as PoW’s. At Runnymede, Bitabaka and most other War Cemeteries, there are thousands of names of servicemen missing in action with no known grave. They had no funeral service, and for their families there was left just a depthless void without an appropriate closure.
In the last few weeks in preparing for today, I have just finished reading a number of what I consider to be relevant books. Professor Richard Evan’s book The Reich in Power and The Reich in War. Also, Norman Dixon’s book on The Psychology of Military Incompetence. In the last few days, there have been some articles in the press, one of which was about Mrs Annie Whitelaw who lost five of her seven sons in WWI. The event where four brothers serving together on a naval ship were all killed in the one action. These books and reports, together with numerous war histories and my submissions on the effects of Agent Orange and the totally unnecessary loss of life of Australian Servicemen, caused by the British Atomic trials in Australia, have created the cauldron from which my address has emanated.
Professor Evan’s books are two of the most depressing I have read. They appropriately deal with the legalised thuggery, bestiality and senseless genocide of millions of people who were the victims of an out of control malignant dictatorship. Men, women and children killed simply because they got in the way; they were shot, bludgeoned, gassed and burnt to death by people claiming to be a cultured, civilised and intellectual society.
If ever there was a case for going to war, then WWII against Nazi Germany must be the epitome of logical justification.
Had Nazi Germany won this war, a darkness would have descended on mankind, or what was left of it; it would have been a darkness reaching depths never seen before; a darkness when all persons would have been subject to the diabolical whims of relentless extremists and deranged unconscionable thugs.
The world owes a great debt to all those servicemen and others who thwarted and destroyed the Scourge of the Swastika.
But today we are remembering not only the war against Nazi Germany and Japan, but all the other actions in which our servicemen have taken part, from the Boer War to our current actions in Afghanistan.
Regretfully, overcoming aggression comes at a great cost.
It is not just the life of a person that is lost, it is not just an event which can be satisfied by a military funeral and an annual commemoration service. For the ex-serviceman and woman, it probably means the loss of 50 years of living. It is the loss of a husband, a sweetheart and the father of children. It is a cost to our nation of the expertise and contribution that would have been made to our society had they lived their full entitled life.
I therefore see this Service today, as not being just a Memorial Service to servicemen whose lives were taken away, but also to all those who were affected by the serviceman’s or servicewoman’s death; of the many cases where there is no immediate death but years of suffering - intolerable suffering where death is often a relief.
Today as part of this Service, I want to reflect on what our Nation or more specifically, Governments have done, or rather not done, for service personnel.
On the outbreak of war, Governments and the supposedly patriotic media promote the glamour of serving a country using every emotional device possible. Prime Ministers mislead parliament, while rights are arbitrarily taken from servicemen.
There seems to be a view passed down from Governments to Governments, that when a person volunteers for the Forces, or is conscripted by the “death by ballot system” of Vietnam War, he or she puts their life at the absolute disposal of the Government to be used or wasted or placed in jeopardy at the whim of irresponsible Government or incompetent and unaccountable commanders, who have little regard for the lives of their troops. It was Hindenberg who said, “War to me was like taking the waters” while his soldiers were dying by the thousand and he was comfortably ensconced 40 miles back from the front lines. Field Marshall Haig aided and abetted by some exceedingly incompetent cohorts, was responsible for the enormous loss of life on the Western Front. His commanders and troops were given totally unattainable targets where every assessment of the task showed it was unachievable and would cost enormous casualties. He and his senior officers faithfully followed the British philosophy of expendability and that war was an approved method of postnatal birth control.
Australian senior commanders could see what was happening and the unnecessary slaughter, but were subordinate to the vast British machine and could do little.
The Australian Government, however, did not suffer the same handicap, but allowed thousands of Australians to be used as canon and machine gun fodder. In WWII, the Government was, however, more forceful where Australian interests were at stake.
Gallipoli is today, revered as the catalyst of the ANZAC legend. This, I suspect, to partly justify a disastrous campaign. Ill conceived, ill executed and at the unnecessary cost of thousands of lives. It was a situation where the enemy was virtually telegraphed of our plans and any surprise was lost.
In Vietnam, our troops battled not only the enemy, but also the indiscriminate use of the highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange and other toxins. With no adequate protective clothing, these agents not only affected the troops, but also the 2nd and 3rd generations of offspring yet to be born. The effects of using these agents were well known before they were used.
The unwarranted and improper use of minefields, where the mines stolen by the Vietcong and used against our troops caused, it is believed, greater casualties than our mines did against the enemy.
Our casualties were about 500 dead and 3000 injured. I understand that 1 in 10 of the deaths was caused by our mines that were stolen and used by the Vietcong. The injuries from mines were horrendous and caused the loss of legs, arms and sight.
This was a war in which we should not have been involved!
The Gulf of Tonkin episode, which prompted American entry to the war, has now been accepted as not having occurred. It was faked to mislead the American people and others into believing the United States had been attacked and so the war was justified. McNamara, the US Secretary of State, admits the US involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. A mistake which cost 60,000 American fatalities and over 100,000 injured. A mistake which led to the heavy bombing campaign which caused over 800,000 innocent civilian casualties in Laos and Cambodia.
Will history also show that the war in Iraq was also a “mistake” of a similar nature? I believe it will.
Most of us here today, will remember the disgraceful way our Vietnam veterans were treated on their return to Australia from the Vietnam War. No “thank you” for what they did, no glory for their heroic actions. It took many years before their contribution was recognised. These servicemen were doing what they were asked to do. That the war was unpopular or questionable was not the fault of our servicemen. They deserved the praise and reverence we have given to our soldiers of other wars. Iraq and Afghanistan are also unpopular, but we are carrying out our countries demands.
In peacetime, the lack of regard for servicemen’s lives has also been questionable.
On 18th February 1952, Mr Menzies made the statement on the proposal to test atomic weapons at sites in Australia. He said, “In close cooperation with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the test will take place at a site in Australia. It will be conducted in conditions which ensure that there will be no danger whatever from radioactivity to the health of the people or animals in the Commonwealth.”
Unfortunately, this statement was profoundly wrong.
In these atomic trials, Australian servicemen were treated as guinea pigs. Airmen in unprotected clothing flew through the atomic clouds on air sampling duties. The navy and army operated in contaminated areas. Their rewards were a premature death rate through cancer in its various forms. A litany of flawed investigations has allowed successive Governments to cover up the extent of effects to servicemen; and the suffering which has extended to wives and fatherless children.
Servicemen have enlisted to serve their country and accept that this may cause death or permanent injury in war or through accidents in peacetime. But they do not enlist to be used unnecessarily in dangerous and hazardous situations in peacetime at the whim of an uninformed, callous or indifferent Government without being given full knowledge of the risks through briefings, and being provided with protective clothing and proper reliable monitoring equipment.
There is no doubt the way Australian servicemen were used in the British Nuclear Trials caused unnecessary deaths, serious illnesses and considerable suffering to dependants.
The atomic trials in Australia were a classic example of a criminally negligent approach by British Scientists and both British and Australian Governments. They apparently did not care or believed that servicemen were expendable without accountability or responsibility on their part, as long as their political objectives were reached.
There is, of course, the “hindsight” argument. The only justifiable use of the hindsight excuse is where knowledge of what may happen is unavailable and could not reasonably be determined. However, before these trials started, there was a wealth of knowledge of the effects of radiation; the Pitchblende miners, Madame Curie, the clock and watch workers using radium to paint luminous dials, American trials and the analysis of the Hiroshima bomb radiation data and effects.
It is now 50 years since the trials, but the Government has still not dealt properly and fairly with the casualties of this activity.
Then there was the F111 deseal/reseal program where airmen were subject to contamination by working in highly toxic chemicals in the confined space of aircraft tanks.
And more recently, the unbelievable situation over the pay for SAS troops fighting in Afghanistan which took over four months to fix instead of 48 hours.
I fully appreciate that you may not have wanted a Guest Speaker to delve on these matters and I apologise if I have offended anyone. But the treatment of service personnel has concerned me for most of my service and post service life. I do not readily accept injustices or unnecessary and avoidable loss of lives.
Today when we walk away from this Remembrance Day Service, are we going to do so in the comfortable belief of “that is that” for another year, or are we going to think a little more deeply about why the lives were lost, and what more could have been done to save them. How many lives were unnecessarily lost because of lack of preparation, a disregard of whether the war was fully justified or a disregard for the sanctity of lives and what we really owe to our servicemen and their families?
Can we really accept the stupidity of military incompetence of having four brothers serving on the same warship and all being killed when it was sunk? Or that an army could be so callous to have a number of brothers killed during WWI without having the compassion to withdraw some from action. What sacrifices are needed before compassion makes its voice heard?
The scales are far from balanced. Our servicemen and women deserve better.
Many have lost their lives for us. We have a responsibility to do our part and that is to ensure as best we can, that our servicemen and their dependants are not sacrificed by complacency, incompetence, ignorance and by Governments and top brass who regard servicemen as pawns to be used indiscriminately and without accountability.
The Guardée’s comment, “that he knows no greater glory than to die for King and Country” should not be a part of the Australian ethos or a “raison d'être” to justify the unnecessary loss of life.
Australian servicemen are the best we can get. They deserve that we should also reciprocate by supporting them and giving the best we can.
LEST WE FORGET
After a short period in the Army, Norman Geschke entered the Air Force where he served for 30 years. During this time, he commanded a number of flying and administrative units, and held senior staff appointments in administration, organisation, training, and operations such as Senior Weapons Officer at number 82 Bomber Wing, Directorates of Operations and Training, and Air Traffic Control. He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation in 1954 and in 1967 an OBE for his services as Director of RAAF Recruiting. He was ADC tothe Governor General in 1960.
His Air Force career has had some close calls including a mid-air collision while training air gunners in a Mustang; a blocked fuel jettison pipe causing fuel to flow into the Avro Lincoln aircraft fuselage; a navigation exercise which had the hallmarks of a disaster when all airfields in range became closed through thick fog, and that is not all! He flew a Lincoln through an atomic cloud during the nuclear trials in Australia.
Within a period of one month he incurred the displeasure of the RAAF Air Board and the EXTREME displeasure of the Air Board (which was established in 1920 to control and administer the Air Force according to the policies determined by the Air Council). Despite this, he was still promoted to Group Captain but requested this promotion to be cancelled, becoming the first Air Force officer to do so.
In 1971, Norman retired with the rank of Group Captain and became the Business Manager of the Howard Florey Institute, which is the largest brain medical research institute in Australia.
In June 1974, he was appointed Victoria’s first Director of Consumer Affairs and in September 1980 he was appointed Ombudsman for Victoria.
He was awarded Honorary Life Membership in 1992, with the International Ombudsman Institute, in recognition of his service to the Institute and his outstanding contribution to the Ombudsman idea and ethos. At the time of his retirement, he was the world’s longest serving Ombudsman.
He is a Fellow of the Australian Society of Practising Accountants (CPA), an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators, a graduate of the Royal Air Force Staff College, and a Justice of the Peace.
Norman is married to Audrey and they have four children, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Some of his hobbies include restoring clocks and music boxes, golf, travel and cruising.
Norman has held the office of Past President and is a current member of the Melbourne Mechanical Music Society. He is a Past President and current member of the Defence Forces Welfare Association. His love of clocks led him to membership with the Australian Antiquarian Horological Society. He holds membership with the Royal United Services Institute (which serves the community by promoting a better understanding of defence and national security). Norman is also a member of the Air Force Association, the R&SL, and the Huntingdale Golf Club.
He has previously been the Chairman of the Inter-service Sports Committee, Chairman of the RAAF Road Safety Committee, President of St John’s Children’s Foundation, President of Oakleigh Youth Club, member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), and Chairman and member of other organisations and committees.
Mr President - Ben Hirsh, Patron – General Rosenfeld, Distinguished Guests, including Mr and Mrs Sher, the partner of the late Greg Sher and members of the Sher Family, members of the Victorian Association of Jewish Service and Ex-servicemen and Women, members of the Victorian Association of WWII Veterans of the Ex-Soviet Union, Ladies and Gentlemen and Students.
Thank you, President Ben Hirsh for inviting me to your ANZAC Commemoration Service, on this 94th anniversary of the ANZAC landing.
It is not my intention to speak of the achievements of General Sir John Monash or indeed other eminent Jewish contributors to our nation’s history, save to mention a few names within the context of my talk today. I propose to speak on a trio of subjects in which, over time, I have had some personal (albeit minor) involvement. Never-the-less they are subjects with a connection to the defence forces of today.
The three subjects are firstly, General Paul Cullen’s initiative to establish a wonderful support organisation for the citizen military forces, “The CMF Association”, which thrives today as the “Defence Reserves Association”. Then, secondly, I plan to say something about the role of women in this country’s defence forces and in the defence forces of several other countries. Thirdly, I will speak about Legacy and its role and challenges.
Finally, as part of this weekend of commemoration, I will conclude with a brief, but due-acknowledgement of the not insignificant part played by the Australian Jewish community in two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.
There would be few in this room today who do not know General Cullen or have not heard of him.
I need to go back to the 1970s when I was a CMF Captain on the Headquarters of the Third Division. The GOC of the division (General McDonald) asked (which meant directed) me to join a committee that had been established in Victoria with the task of identifying ways to support the CMF. This had resulted from the foresight of Sydney - based General Paul Cullen.
The General brought together like-minded senior CMF officers from around Australia, hence General Stuart McDonald’s request of me to assume a very minor role in the fledgling Victorian part of General Cullen’s grand plan for a nation-wide organisation.
The organisation soon strongly supported the CMF soldiers and achieved much for them, and has continued to achieve much, including positives in such matters as conditions of service, employment (and deployment) and equipment availability. The Association under General Cullen’s leadership encouraged policies that saw training at sub-unit and unit level to enable employment at these levels, rather than employment solely as replacements for depleted regular units or sub-units.
General Cullen was a strong and articulate advocate; people in high places (indeed in all places) listened to him, even bridging the perceived Melbourne-Sydney gap.
In more recent times, following the introduction of legislation that empowers the callout of reservists in certain defence emergency circumstances; the Defence Reserves Association has made a significant contribution to a viable system for the protection of reservists in the event of such callout - a system that is balanced in that it supports both the reservists and the employers.
The legislation allows the callout of the reserves on proclamation by the Governor General and in a defence emergency. Such callout can be for an initial period of three months, with two further extensions each of three months.
It gave rise to a number of issues for reservists and employers. Among them, for example: Would his or her job be kept open? How would the employers cover the absence of reservist employees? How would professional and self-employed reservists cover their absence and preserve their practices or businesses?
So successful was General Cullen’s initiative that it has survived many defence force changes to organisations and nomenclature. Over time it has moved from the “CMF Association” to the “Army Reserve Association” and finally, with the advent of tri-service organisations, to the “Defence Reserves Association” of today. The current leadership of the DRA continues on the vision established by General Cullen, through General Jim Barry at National level and General Greg Gorde as the State President.
The longevity of General Cullen not only enabled him to witness many of the changes; but, I feel sure, to influence them!
Females in the Defence Forces
Again, I go back to the 1970s when, in 1975, I was CO of 10 Medium Regiment at Geelong.
While all sorts of pressures for equal opportunity for women were growing in the community at large, Victoria’s army girls were kept together (secure and protected) in the WRAAC COY at the Albert Park Signals Depot. As 10 Medium Regiment, in common with all other CMF units, struggled for numbers following the cessation of the National Service scheme of the time, the possibility of employing females - especially as signallers, drivers, cooks, intelligence officers and medics - posed a partial solution, even if they could not be deployed on the gun line.
After much agitation, 10 Medium Regiment was granted a limited female establishment, the first in Victoria and, possibly, the first in Australia. All sorts of dire warnings and forebodings were expressed, such as that the wives of male members would stop their men from attending, or that improper liaisons would develop, and so on. It is true that some problems did arise, and a number of issues had to be addressed - not the least being the need to provide female toilet facilities in a building designed and build in the 1920s for men!
In addressing the issues surrounding the role of women in defence, time limitations force me to not cover today their very significant contributions on the home front, in defence industries, on the land and in many other male-substitution roles. Nor will time – General Rosenfeld – allow me to do justice to the marvellous work of the nurses, dating back indeed to the Boer War.
Why would women join the services if employment opportunities are not fully open to them? Currently, it is my understanding that Australia’s servicewomen cannot be employed in the roles that have the potential to expose them to direct combat. Nevertheless, over a period of more than 100 years, many of the gender barriers have been dismantled, and women serve in key operational and leadership roles; for instance, 36 Squadron (of C-17 Heavy-Lift Aircraft) has been commanded by a female Wing Commander.
Further, I understand that there are, albeit ambitious, plans to increase substantially the number of females in the Australian Defence Force from the current 14% to something in the order of 1 in 5. While it is unlikely that women will become “foot soldiers” in the short term, it may be possible to use them in other ways, such as ground defence officers, as combat engineers or in airfield defence roles.
Already, in Iraq and Afghanistan, servicewomen are members of patrols, thereby connecting well with women in the local communities. Since 2005, women have been able to serve in infantry, armoured and artillery units (as signals, transport, clerical and medical personnel). In my own corps of Artillery, they can now be employed as radar and meteorological operators in the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment.
What of other nations? Allow me to skate over just a few (in summary):-
Since 1982, Canada has opened all combat - related roles to women. Likewise, New Zealand has, since 2001, had no restrictions, meaning that women can serve in the SAS, for example. In the UK, women are excluded from combat roles and as naval clearance divers. Only 8% of UK Defence Force is women! Since 1994, the US has allowed women to serve on combat aircraft and in combat ships. In France, all posts are open to women, including combat, except sub-mariners and (interestingly) riot control work which apparently is a service role in France.
In 2000, Israel established a co-ed infantry battalion called the 33rd, named after the 33 women killed in combat during the War of Independence. The 33 Battalion conducts active service patrolling along the borders with Egypt and also participated in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. 2001 saw the first female combat pilot. Israel also allows service in combat roles, including Artillery and Field Intelligence.
Legacy had its genesis on the Western Front of WWI, when a wounded digger said to his mate, “Don’t worry about me, just look after the missus and kids”. Sadly and poignantly, recent deaths in Afghanistan area reminder that Legacy’s role, as established in 1923, remains. Indeed, today, Australia-wide, Legacy cares for 120,000 widows and 1,900 children and dependants with a disability.
It is relevant to point out that the first President of Legacy was your own Brigadier H. (Harold) E. Cohen. Our organisation comprises 50 essentially autonomous Clubs, ranging in size from Sydney and Melbourne - each with more than 600 members (known as Legatees) - to the likes of smaller Clubs with a few as 20 members. Dependant children are referred to as Junior Legatees (or, in some States, Wards).
Key tasks include pension advocacy, financial and welfare support, education (to age 18 or 25 if at tertiary level) and social support via Widows Clubs (for companionship and outings). Holiday camps are conducted for the youth and the disabled dependants. Funds are derived from a number of sources including State (Victorian Veterans Council via ANZAC and Remembrance Days), Federal (Department of Veterans’ Affairs), generous public appeals (ie donations) and badge sales, and Bequests.
Legacy is an organisation that strives not for its members but exclusively for those whom Legacy serve, ie the widows and dependants of deceased veterans. James A. Michener, a Pulitzer Prize winning author; wrote an article about Legacy. A leading parliamentarian had said, “Legacy is about our only institution whose motives have never been questioned”. Michener then wrote, “No nation in the world cares for the families of the war dead with as much generosity and love as Australia does through this extraordinary organisation”.
Legacy, like kindred organisations, face significant challenges to deliver its services. Legatees are aging and while in recent years we have recruited members with post-Vietnam service and also recruited a number of men and women without prior military service, those initiatives have not offset the losses, from our ranks, of WW2 Legatees. It is possible that we may need to employ more professional staff to either (wholly or partly) do some of the work done by Legatees in the past.
In the immediate future, funding will be a particular challenge given the competition in the “not for profit” sector for the charity dollar, the recent fire appeals, and the current global financial environment. It is interesting to note that in earlier days your then eastern suburbs Sub-Branch (with just 100 members) fostered the Annual Legacy Picnic and donated a recreation hall at Harelands (a Legacy home located in Kew).
In conclusion, I will make some reference to the sacrifices made during two World Wars and subsequent conflicts and in particular highlight the Jewish contribution. During World War I, Australia sent some320,000 people overseas (essentially to Europe) from a population of just 5 million (6-7%). Jewish participation was in the order of 13%. With 61,000 dead and many other casualties, there could hardly have been a family or household untouched in one way or another!
Again in World War 2 approximately 13% of the then Jewish population participated. These statistics speak for themselves. Today, in particular, we remember those who made the supreme sacrifice and we acknowledge that their sacrifice was not in vein.
LEST WE FORGET
Graeme Standish attended Melbourne High School and subsequently qualified as an accountant.
He joined Shell Australia in 1957 and during the ensuing 35 years held a number of senior finance and general management positions. He was the Finance Controller of the Shell Group of Companies in Australia from 1982 until his retirement in 1993. Graeme is a past Chairman of the Australian Accounting Standards Board.
Graeme served for 35 years as a CMF/Army Reserve Officer and following three years as Commanding Officer of 10 Medium Regiment he was appointed Commanding Officer of Monash University Regiment. In 1986 he was promoted to Brigadier and appointed Commander of the Third Training Group.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988. Graeme is a past President of the Naval and Military Club, a past Honorary Colonel of the Monash University Regiment, a past Colonel Commandant of the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery and a past Trustee of the War Veterans’ Homes Trust of Victoria. Interests include lawn bowls and he is a current member of the Victorian State Emergency Service. He has five adult children and eleven grandchildren.
Mr President, Distinguished Guests and Representatives, Members of VAJEX.
Thank you, President Ben Hirsh, for inviting me to this Remembrance Service, commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice, signed at 11am on 11th November 1918.
Thus “The war to end all war” drew to a conclusion, but hardly resulted in a satisfactory solution for peace and stability in the world. It was followed, within 20 years, by war in Spain and then the Second World War, to a large extent the continuation of the Great War.
The subsequent “Cold War” between the superpowers of the USA and USSR was a “standoff” lasting nearly half a century, but this was interspersed by more than a dozen smaller and limited wars, each disturbing the possibility of world peace.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the balance of two Superpowers was replaced by ten or more unstable areas in the world, with further wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that continue today.
This Remembrance Day reminds us to commemorate not only those Servicemen and women who made the supreme Sacrifice during the Great War, but also those who served and those who fell during all of the wars in which our country has been engaged, both before and after the Great War. These include the colonial Wars in the Crimea, New Zealand, Egypt, China and South Africa, and subsequent Australian actions in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Malaysia, Iraq and Afghanistan. They also include Peacekeeping activities in which our forces have been deployed, such as East Timor and the Solomon Islands.
It devolves upon us to remember their names and deeds, and to see that they are not forgotten.
I am doubly honoured to be here today. Firstly, because I have known and been associated with many Jewish people and have always been impressed by their ability, integrity and capacity to make outstanding contributions to the Australian community.
Service in the Armed Forces is rather different from that in a civilian occupation, as the potential danger is apparent, and mutual dependence draws the individual members of a Unit closer together. I have served in the Royal Australian Navy where the efficiency and usefulness of a ship is dependant upon the ship’s company of perhaps 250individuals being united as a team. Close contact within the confines of the ship for weeks or months enables one to judge the worth of an individual by his or her personal qualities, rather than on the more superficial aspects of life.
The Navy has sailors of all Religions Denominations and some who profess none at all! I am impressed by the individual who does profess belief in a Supreme Being who is above oneself; and being prepared to ask for assistance and guidance in time of need. This individual is usually the one who is best-prepared in time of danger or difficulty and the one of whom you can depend.
The Jewish members of the Armed Services have a considerable reputation in this regard. Of the 17,287 Jews in Australia in 1914, 11% enlisted as volunteers and of those 15% lost their lives. Two, of this small number, were award the Victoria Cross for gallantry.
Official figures for Australian Jewish enlistments during the Second World War are not available, but I note that about 80 Jewish people are recorded as having served in the RAN, several as senior ratings and 24 as commissioned officers. This is a high proportion of the more senior ranks and suggests that the total numbers are under-estimated. It is quite likely that other sailors were not known to be Jewish, at that time.
I am sure that the names of those Sailors recorded in the Australian Jewish Book of Honour for World War II are well known to you. Their distinguished presence is represented here today. I joined the Navy in 1957 and did not have the privilege of serving with any of these distinguished sailors, although I did have some later contact with Trevor Rapke, when he was Judge Advocated General for the Navy, as his office in Victoria Barracks was adjacent to that of the Medical Director General.
I do not know the history of this War Memorial Obelisk but believe that it was erected after the Great War and has stood in the centre of this hollow square for about 80 years.
It contains the names of 82 Jewish Servicemen who died for their country during the Great War and another 60 Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who gave their lives during the Second World War. They made the supreme sacrifice so that we might live in a free country, without oppression and safe from the perils of war.
It is imperative that we should uphold and maintain the ideals for which they served and died. The names of the prominent Jewish Servicemen and women are well-known to us, but let us not forget the unsung heroes, who also served in a Military Unit, giving essential service upon which all members of their Unit depended.
The second reason that I am honoured relates to this hallowed ground, the Melbourne General Cemetery. A number of my ancestors are buried here, but in addition, as I look around, I see my family name at the foot of numerous graves. My maternal great grandfather, Frederick Atyeo, was a stone mason who migrated from Somerset, England, in 1852 and began working here as a monumental mason. His son and grandsons succeeded him and the firm was known as Geo. F Atyeo and Sons, who supplied granite for the headstones and prominent buildings, such as Banks. Many memorials were built after the Great War, with granite provided for the shrine and many Anzac Memorials in Country Towns. This fine obelisk does not have a maker’s name – could it have been one of those memorials?
Let me close by quoting Winston Churchill regarding his outlook on life:
“Let us be contented with what has happened and be thankful for all that we have been spared. Let us accept the natural order of things, in which we move. Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys, but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows. Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together. The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making --- once.”
On behalf of we who are left, I give thanks for the sacrifice of our former comrades, who died that we may live.
Dr Warren Atyeo Kemp graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in Melbourne and was a Resident at Royal Hobart Hospital. Dr Kemp served in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve for twenty eight years, rising to the rank of Surgeon-Commander, and receiving the Reserve Force Decoration. Dr Kemp was also in general practice in Camberwell, practised as a Rheumatologist at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, and practised privately in Collins Street. He is now retired.
Dr Kemp’s present appointments are as Consultant Rheumatologist at the Alfred Hospital; Vice President of the Royal United Services Institution; and as a member of the RSL, the Navy League and the Naval Historical Society. Dr Kemp is well-known in Freemasonry, in its various degrees.
Thank you for inviting me today to attend your annual remembrance luncheon.
I will try today to not tell the usual story of the ANZAC legend but rather try to enlighten you all on what it means to be a modern ANZAC.
We are familiar with the creation of ANZAC at Gallipoli during the First World War but few of us ever give thought to the many time which members of both the Australian military and the New Zealand military have gathered to form ANZAC forces.
There were many additional times when the ANZAC forces served in WW1. Indeed the tradition continued through WWII, Korea, Malaysia, Borneo, Vietnam and even today they are standing side by side in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is imperative that we recognise that in the past we have been slow to offer our support to those who have defended our country.
When the Vietnam conflict ended it was not until 1987 that a public show of support was given with the Welcome Home parade in Sydney. Albeit 20 years too late – it was better then than never.
Today we are more ready to offer our immediate support to the veteran, and indeed the crowds that attend the annual dawn services across Australia are increasing annually to a level never before seen.
The physical damage can be addressed by medical treatment and careful repatriation but it is the psychological damage which has affected these soldiers, sailors and air personnel which can be overlooked.
Mr Ben Hirsh, President of the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, Association members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and members of the younger generation.
Thank you, Mr President, for inviting me to your Association and for allowing me to address you at this significant time, your ANZAC Day Commemoration. My address to you is about Australia’s Special Forces.
The military term Commando first came into prominence during the Boer War. This was the name which the Boers called their small raiding parties.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Australian intelligence and the RAN made arrangements for selected people to operating in a ‘stay behind’ role in what was to become the South West Pacific Area. These people became known as Coast Watchers and later were incorporated into M Special Unit. One of these Coast Watchers was responsible for the rescue of LT Kennedy and his crew after his motor torpedo boat was run down and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. LT Kennedy later became President of the USA.
Towards the end of 1941, and after secret communications between England and Australia, a military mission arrived in Melbourne. This mission was commanded by LT COL Mawhood and included four highly trained British Special Forces personnel, one of whom was CAPT Mike Calvert (Mad Mike) who was later assistant to MAJ GEN Orde Wingate in the Burma campaign. This group commenced the training of a total of eight Australian and two NZ independent companies. Each of these consisted of 273 me of all ranks with a high proportion of Officers and NCOs. Also, these units were well equipped with weapons of a large variety.
The area selected and named as No 7 Infantry Training Centre was Tidal River located near Wilsons Promontory in South East Victoria. Wilsons Promontory was one of the forward operational bases sited around the south coast of Victoria in World War II. When the Japanese attacked and advanced through South East Asia it was realised that these units would be needed for the defence of Australia and more suitable training areas were required such as Canungra and Fraser Island in Queensland and other exotic places.
2/1st Coy part of Larkforce was stationed at Rubaul and other locations over an area of 1500 square kilometres. Many were captured by the Japanese and were being transported to Hainan Island in the Japanese ship Montivideo Maru when it was sunk by the submarine Sturgeon, which did not know that it was carrying 1,050 prisoners from Rubaul, all of whom were lost including 130 members of the 2/1st Coy. 2/2nd Independent Coy later commanded by Bernard Callinan, who like Sir John Monash was an engineer. This unit was based on East Timor and was the only Allied force not defeated or neutralised by the Japanese following their attack on Pearl Harbour.
They carried out a very successful guerrilla campaign against a Japanese force of approximately 20,000 for ten months. The 2/2nd were relieved by the 2/4th who were themselves withdrawn after a brief period.
During the operation in East Timor 40 Australians were lost as against 1,500 Japanese. After the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions returned to Australia from the Middle East their cavalry units were retrained and formed into cavalry commando squadrons. The Headquarters were placed in command of the independent companies which were redesignated Cavalry Commando Squadrons.
2/6 Cav Cdo Regt – 2/7, 2/9, 2/10
2/7 Cav Cdo Regt – 2/3, 2/5, 2/6
2/9 Cav Cdo Regt – 2/11, 2/12
2/1Coy was not reformed
2/2 and 2/4 remained as Independent Companies.
All of the companies and squadrons acquitted themselves with honour throughout the total campaign.
The Two NZ Companies
No 1 Special Unit did reach the Middle East but did not fight as a unit, being split up between other NZ Units. No 2 did not serve as a Unit, but its members joined and helped to train other Units. Apparently Special Forces were too hot for the NZ military and political leaders.
M and Z Special Units
In the Pacific theatre of war, approval was given to raise an offshoot of Special Operations Executive (SOE) to be known as Special Operations Australia (SOA). From this organisation were developed M Special, included in unit were the Coast Watchers. Their role was to collect intelligence by inserting small groups into occupied areas using whatever means available, such as Special Flight 200 RAAF based at Leyburn in NSW.
Its role was the collection of intelligence but main aim was to employ specially trained parties behind enemy lines and conduct operations themselves or to organise and lead local inhabitants in active resistance to the Japanese. Their training areas were Townsville, Fraser Island and other locations. One of the most outstanding small scale raids of any nation in WWII was carried out by Z Special in a raid on Singapore harbour Operation Jaywick. Almost two months in enemy waters was 100% successful. Operation Rimu was a 100% failure. By the end of hostilities, 81 parties had operated in Japanese occupied areas, casualties were 69 dead or missing but the success rate was outstanding, considering the small numbers of personnel involved.
At the end of WWII many units and formations were struck of the order of battle including Commandos but in 1954, moves were made to raise special or commando units back into the Australian forces. 1 Commando Coy CMF raised 15 July 1955 in Sydney 2 Commando Coy CMF raised 5 July 1955 in Melbourne The role of these units was similar to the Commando units of WWII. Since the formation of these units individual members have served in all conflicts and peacekeeping up to the present day.
Special Air Service Regiment (SAS).
This unit was raised in 1957 and the original members were trained by 1 and 2 Commando Coy personnel. The role of the SAS is similar to the Mand Z role of WWII and again members from this unit have been, since 1957, on active service in many areas of the world.
Australian Special Forces now consist of:
4 Bn (Cdo) RAR
Incident Response Regt RAE
1st Cdo Regt Australian Army Reserve
Special Operations Command Australia.
This unit is responsible for Counter Terrorism and comprises:
Technical Assault Group East (Homeland)
Technical Assault Group West (Offshore)
How do these members of Commando – Special Forces –past and present equate to the ANZACs and the AANZAC spirit? Like the ANZACs, it is their courage, determination, mateship, their inherent intelligence brought about by their upbringing in this land of ours, their ability to understand and work with people in other countries.
Although all Australian WWI service men and women, except one, have passed away and WWII units are diminishing in size, the ANZAC Day services are always well attended, and in Melbourne the march which commences at 0900 hours and finishes at the Shrine of Remembrance at 1330 hours is attended by thousands of marchers and spectators. At the Dawn Service in 2007, over 35,000 people attended at the Shrine.
I would like to say here that the ANZAC spirit will not die out, and finally I would like to quote what MAJ GEN Michael Jeffrey, Governor General of Australia, wrote in the book launch of the fifty year history of the CMF Commandos:
“Our Nation could do not better than choose the Commandos as an inspirational role for our young of the future for like the ANZACs, they have a combination of courage, nous, professional skill, a sense of humour and an abiding love of Australia and its democratic values.”
CAPT Bergman was born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1928. In World War II he was in the Air Training Corps and in 1948, joined the 5thBattalion – the Victorian Scottish. He transferred to 2 Commando Coy as Sergeant. Commissioned Lieutenant in 1958 and was promoted to Captain in 1960; was 2/IC of 2 Commando Coy. He served in Papua New Guinea in 1967 and in Vietnam with 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in 1969.
Captain Bergman worked for the old Postmaster General’s Department (later Telecom). He received the Australian Army Commendation for designing navigational training aids – as used by all Australian Special Forces. He was also responsible for many large projects with the Defence Department. Seconded to the Victorian Police in 1979, Captain Bergman received the Chief Commissioner’s Commendation for outstanding contributions to Policing. He is a Freemason and a Past Master of the Commando Memorial Lodge; and is also a member of the Vietnam Veterans Lodge.
Mr Chairman, Mr Murray Thompson, Group Captain
Dunn representing our Defence Force, COL Alf Argent, President of Legacy, Men and Women of VAJEX.
Good morning, Boker Tov, Dobre Utra, Dzien Dobry.
We are gathered here today to give remembrance to those who made the supreme sacrifice whilst serving in the uniform of their country.
Today in the shadows of this ancient Metahar House we remember in particular those Jewish soldiers, sailors and airmen whose names appear on the granite obelisk situated in the centre of this hollow square. There are 142 names on this memorial: 82 served and died in WWI 1914-1919 – (5674-5680); 60 served and died in WWII 1939-1945 – (5699-5705). [These came from Victoria and/or served in Victorian Units – ed].
War Memorials such as this one, the War Memorial on the grounds of the Mount Scopus School, and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne remind us of enormous sacrifice, and serves to strengthen in us the resolve to live for the things they died for, to value life, to live one day at a time, and to make that day and every day an important day.
War Memorials are the expression of a community’s need for a physical symbol to address its emotional response to war. War Memorials provide a focal point for our Commemoration Services. They are important to the families and relatives of those men and women who did not return and are buried in war cemeteries in foreign lands.
Flight Lieutenant Max Rose RAAF KIA 8th July 1944, 21 years of age is buried in St Maclou-De Folle Ville, France.
War Memorials become the cemeteries for those families to visit, on special occasions, to lay wreaths, poppies, evergreens and to place pebbles.
War Memorials also remind us of the enormity of armed conflict and the waste that falls from it, and when we rise for the Last Post as we will today we will remember those of the faith who have passed into the silent land, and we will remember them, all of them, from all our wars and we will honour them by ourselves becoming silent. We will hear an echo of the stillness that becalmed their battlefields so long ago, we will hear an echo of the homes made silent when they did not return. For us, silence and remembrance is all we have to give to those who gave so much.
At the Supreme Court where I work, the retired Secretary to the Board of Examiners is Mr Peter Ryan, soldier, journalist, publisher, public servant. He was a patrol officer with ANGAU (Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit) during the New Guinea campaign in WWII. At 20 years of age he won a Military Medal. He wrote a book about his experiences, titled Fear Drive My Feet. It is one of the finest works to come out of WWII. I quote a passage from that book...
“I realised that war accomplishes nothing but the degradation of all engaged in it. Man is very brave, his patience and endurance are truly wonderful. Perhaps he will learn one day that wars and calamities of nature are not the only occasions when such qualities are needed.”
Today we continue to work for the rights of our fellow Servicemen and Women and their families by providing close support and education assistance to those who meet the level of need. It is our spiritual duty that we of Carry-On, our sister organisation Legacy, The RSL and the Unit Associations too numerous to mention commit ourselves to service.
Today I proudly wear my grandfather’s WWI medals along with my own. His name is recorded in the Shrine of Remembrance among the 114,000 Victorian men and women who served in the Great War. WWI did indeed show the world the stuff Australians were made of. It turned out to be the stuff of heroes: Sir John Monash was one of those heroes.
I’ll leave you today with the words of the motto of the Returned and Services League of Australia: The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance.
LEST WE FORGET
Gary L Edwards was born in Melbourne in 1946. He drew the lucky marble and became a National Serviceman – serving in Vietnam 1970-71, attached to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
Being aware of the needs of others, Gary’s Community Service involvement is quite extensive.
He is a Past President of Carry On Victoria; a former State Councillor of the R&SL; Life Member Royal Australia Regiment Association; Voluntary guide at the Shrine of Remembrance; Past Member State Council of St John Ambulance, Victoria; Member of the Most Venerable Order of St John; Currently Tipstaff, Supreme Court of Victoria.
Gary is also involved with Freemasonry and is a Past Master of Commando Memorial Lodge and Foundation Master of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Lodge – having been Honoured with Grand Lodge rank.
Gary was made a Serving Brother in the Order of St John and this year was promoted to Officer.
The Australian Light Horse has a unique place within the wider ANZAC legend. The mounted regiments of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in the First World War became renowned for their hard-riding and courage in battle. Many considered them the military embodiment of the best characteristics of the Australian bushmen. But the light horse had existed for more than decade before that. Regiments had been created following Federation and most of these had their roots in the colonial part-time mounted units with colourful names like New South Wales Lancers, Queensland Mounted Infantry, Victorian Mounted Rifles or Western Australian Mounted Infantry, that had fought in the Boer War.
Australians saw their light horsemen as an elite. Even in drab wartime dress there was an air of dash and glamour about them. In stereotype at least, they combined the qualities of the rural pioneer with those of the natural soldier. There was perhaps some substance to this romantic view. Drawn heavily from the country towns and properties, where ownership of a horse and the ability to ride demonstrated that a man was both fit and solvent, light horsemen were considered to possess hardiness, independence and initiative.
The slouch hat adorned with emu plumes became the symbol of the light horse. Most regiments wore it that way. One trooper later wrote in Egypt in 1918:“On leave the Light Horseman is smartly dressed; but even in Cairo he has a wonderful love of his trust hat, which never looks new, and is never by any chance turned up at the side”. In other respects the uniform was not much different from what the infantry wore. What made them distinctive, beyond the emu feathers, were their spurs, polished leather leggings, belts, and accoutrements, including a bandolier.
The light horse was meant to fight from horseback with sword or lance as cavalry did. The light horseman’s mount gave him mobility, but in action he would dismount to fight on foot; in battle one man in four was usually enquired to be a horse-holder. A light horse regiment was not nearly as strong as a battalion of infantry and a troop had nothing like the firepower of a platoon. On the other hand, it was a highly mobile and flexible force, could travel distances, and also do some of the work traditionally given to cavalry, including patrolling, reconnaissance and screening the main force.
By war’s end, the light horse had grown to a formidable force. In 1914, Australia had offered troops to assist Britain. This included a division of infantry and one brigade of light horse, all specially raised from volunteers. Within weeks it was announced that the contribution would be expanded and a further mounted brigade was formed as well as a third one by October. Eventually there were five AIF light horse brigades forming the larger part of two mounted divisions; the infantry meanwhile was expanded to five divisions.
Colonel Harry Chauvel was given command of the original 1st Light Horse Brigade. He would soon become the most famous light horseman of all. Chauvel had a long association with the bush and the military. As a young man, he was an officer in a part-time mounted unit raised by his father at Tabulam, NSW. Later when the family moved to Queensland, he took up a commission in the Queensland Mounted Infantry. In 1896 he transferred to the permanent forces. A few years later he went with the first troops of the Queensland Mounted Infantry to the Boer War and in 1902 he commanded a battalion of the Australian Commonwealth Horse.
Chauvel was small and wiry and possessed strong powers of command. He was also without vanity or any flamboyance. Without in any way diminishing the great achievements and deserved recognition of General Sir Jon Monash, Chauvel was the other great Commander and leader of Australian Forces in the
First World War, but remains by comparison largely unacknowledged.
The first-raised light horse regiments had expected to be sent to Europe but got no further than Egypt. They did not accompany the infantry to take part in the famous Gallipoli landing on 25th April 1915. For a while they thought they had been side-lined. They were soon needed, however, so they went without their horses to serve in the trenches. When, after the Gallipoli campaign, the infantry went off to the Western Front, it seemed once again that the light horse had been left behind. But in the forthcoming Middle East operations across desert, mountains, and plains, endurance and mobility became essential. The light horse soon proved invaluable in the Sinai and in the later advance into Palestine and Syria.
In 1916 the three light horse brigades (each of three regiments) were placed with the brigade of New Zealand Mounted Rifles to form the ANZAC Mounted Division and put under Chauvel. Next year a further division, the Imperial Mounted Division, was formed by taking the 3rdBrigade and adding the re-formed 4thBrigade. In June it was renamed the Australian Mounted Division. When the 5thBrigade was created in 1918, largely from Australians from the former Imperial Camel Corps, it was too included.
The Australians fought their big mounted action at Romani; then they advanced beyond the desert of the Sinai. By mid 1917 the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, was anxious for success in Palestine. He appointed General Sir Edmond “Bull” Allenby to takeover from General Murray, who had suffered two reverses at Gaza. Allenby, a cavalryman, had earlier worked with some of the Australians in the Boer War. Shifting reluctantly to the Middle East, from June 1917 he took over the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and quickly stamped his authority on it. Allenby quickly sought out the talent in his new force and gave them the opportunity to perform.
One who seized his chance was Chauvel who had been knighted and, since April, was leading the Desert Column. Allenby appointed him to lead the newly named Desert Mounted Corps and thus confirmed him as the first Australian in permanent command of a corps with the rank of Lieutenant General. Meanwhile, more men, guns, and equipment were sent to the Middle East; Lloyd George made it clear that he wanted the capture of Jerusalem by Christmas. But Gaza still stood in the way.
For the third attempt on Gaza, Allenby undertook to make an attack at Beersheba. This provided the light horse with its own chance – the chance to create a legend. On 31st October 1917 the British assault began. There was hard fighting through the day, but progress was slow and time was running out. It was vital that the horses get water. Finally, Chauvel gave the order: “Put Grant straight at it.”
Brigadier General William Grant was a university-educated Queensland pastoralist. Now he would lead a brigade in what has come to be regarded as one of the last cavalry-style charges in history. At 4.30 pm squadrons of the 4th and 12th Regiments – about 800 horsemen – set off at the trot. They were armed with bayonets instead of cavalry swords. Over the last few kilometres they charged at full pace.
Some men fell under rifle, machine-gun, and shrapnel fire, but they were an unstoppable force. But it should be remembered that this was partly because of the Turk’s expectation that at some point the Light Horsemen would stop and dismount. When they did not the Turks panicked and many forgot to lower their rifle sights. Also the well served machine guns on the Turkish flanks would have decimated the charging horsemen if they had not been quickly silenced by British Royal Horse Artillery batteries.
Beersheba and its wells were taken, and Gaza was abandoned by the Turks after some more fighting on 6th November. The British advanced and the Turks withdrew from Jerusalem on 9th December. Lloyd George got his Christmas present.
Beersheba is notable in the history of the light horse as an outstanding and remarkable action. It remains their best remembered battle and deservedly so.
From time to time there was talk of sending the light horse to the Western Front, but the Australians were spared this fate. There were some changes, though, and in 1918 the Australian Mounted Division was issued with swords, allowing them to fight from horse-back in the manner of cavalry. Finally, the Australians cemented their reputation by their part in the climactic capture of Damascus.
The war historian Henry Gullett observed the light horsemen around Damascus; they were true veterans, he thought:
They rode, very dusty and unshaved, their big hats, battered and drooping, through the tumultuous populace of the oldest city in the world, with the same easy, casual bearing, and the same self-confidence that are their distinctive characteristics on their country tracks at home. And their long-tailed horses, at home now, like their owners, on any road in any country, saw nothing in the shouting mob or banging rifles, or the narrow ways and many colours of the bazaars, to cause them once to start, shy, or even cock an ear.
Throughout the war the light horse were at the centre of the British army’s achievements in the Sinai and Palestine. They were there from the initial advance from the Suez Canal until the defeat of the Turkish forces. An army from a nation not 20 years old had fought across the world’s oldest battlefields. They had made the famous cavalry charge at Beersheba, entered Jerusalem, and been in the capture of Damascus. One of their numbers had commanded the Desert Mounted Corps. And of course the consequences of the British victory in the Middle East at that time set in train a course of events that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel and other outcomes that are still at the centre of world affairs today.
The light horsemen were spared some of the horrors that faced their countrymen on the Western Front. But they had fought long and hard campaigns over great distances, often in extremes of temperature and weather, and sometimes across terrible country. Their sacrifice and achievements, and those of their beloved horses which they had to leave behind, became an outstanding part of Australia’s military history. In these operations about 1,500 men were killed in action or died of wounds or from other causes; sickness and disease took a particularly heavy toll.
The Australian Light Horse existed for less than 50years, through peace and war. Industrialisation and mechanisation soon made mounted warfare outmoded. The Boer War, in which horses could provide mobility, gave a brief reprieve for the exponents of cavalry, while the Palestine campaign was the heyday of the light horse. Regiments existed after the war, taking the numbers and inheriting the battle-honours from the AIF units. These were mobilised in the Second World War, but, overtaken by technology, they were soon disbanded. The titles of a few are still retained within the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
Colonel Michael Herbert Annett CSC was born on 1st March 1962 in Hamilton and entered the Royal Military College in 1980, graduating in 1983. His initial appointment in 1984, was as a Troop Leader in 1st Armoured Regiment. He served as Officer Commanding A Squadron, 8th/13th Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1993/4 and he commanded 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Regiment in Victorian 2000/2001.
In 1988/89 Colonel Annett served as a UN Military Observer with UNIIMOG in Iran and Iraq. His training appointments include postings as Senior Instructor Tactics at the School of Armour, Puckapunyal and Chief Inspector Warrant Officer and NCO Wing, Canungra.
Michael left the Regular Army and assumed his new role as Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Branch of the RSL in May 2006. Since January 2007 Michael has resumed his soldiering as a Reservist, and he is currently the Commandant of the Victorian Detachment of the Land Warfare Centre. He is also the Victorian Patron of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Association.
Michael was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in the 2007 Australia Day Honours List.