we celebrate the 99th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice
which ended the First World War. That
war, which destroyed empires, changed the old order and has had a dominant
effect on Australian cultural and political history ever since. Over 1/3 of Australian men of fighting age
served in the War and 1 in 10 were killed or injured.
men were the fit, brave, adventurous and motivated. The loss of so many has affected the
development of Australia. And yet they
fought for a democratic ideal. Australia
in 1914 saw itself as part of a Global British civilisation, which brought the
ideals of liberal democracy, fair play and the rule of law to all parts of the
world. These ideals are what they were fighting for.
1917 was an uncertain and tumultuous time. The Battle of Beersheba on 31 Oct 17
lead to the British forces taking Gaza on 7 November. The October revolution occurred on 5 Nov. On 6 November 1917 Empire forces from Canada
took the town of Paschendale ending that most bloody and destructive of
battles. The Bolsheviks Stormed winter palace on 7 Nov.
hundred years ago today, on 11 Nov 1917, Australian troops, including
Aboriginal Australians, who were so badly treated when they returned home, in
the desert column, as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, were moving
into positions in preparation for the next attack on the Ottoman Turks.
The Ottoman Turks are preparing defensive positions of Jerusalem and Hebron. Jerusalem fell to British forces on 1 December 1917. The first European troops in Jerusalem since 1187. On the Western Front, German artillery is firing in Paschendale. In the East, the Germans are advancing towards Riga, and the Austrians are advancing slowly on the southern front in their successful battle of Caporetto.
The Allied victory was not assured. There were small numbers of American soldiers on the western front, but the vast majority did not arrive until spring 1918.
Forward 12 months and the German war machine is exhausted. Lubendorf finally realised that the German empire was going to be defeated. He recommended that the Germans sue for peace.
last French man died at 1050, the last British Empire soldier, a Canadian,
George Price, was shot at 10:58, a minute later the last allied soldier, an
American Henry Gunther, was shot. Officially the guns fell silent at 11am on 11
troops occupied Constantinople on 13 Nov 18. Elsewhere fighting continued in
Africa until as late as 23 November 1918, when the news of the Armistice
reached the front in Mozambique and German East Africa. The Civil War is
beginning in Russia. Australians will fight in Northern Russia until late 1919.
today is the Armistice; the official end to the slaughter. Today is not a day to celebrate war; it is a
day to mourn tragedy. A tragic war that
could have been avoided if the politicians had wanted to. But the reality is that, in September 1914,
much of Europe wanted a war. They just
did not expect the war to be as all-consuming and brutal as it was.
do not condemn all wars. Some war is
just and an unfortunate necessity. While
we must be prepared to confront those who would be tyrants and impose
oppression on ourselves and others; all war is tragedy.
are currently deployed on land, sea and in the air in Afghanistan, Iraq, and
the Persian Gulf, in Sudan. Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, in the Pacific Islands,
assisting in surveillance and bomb disposal in border protection off north-west
soldiers now, like in 1918, face many years of physical, mental and
psychological pain which, like in 1918, stems from the hardship, heroism and
horror of warfare. It is the Families of
those Australian soldiers, now as in 1918, who will carry the burden of that
loss and injury long into the future.
a short time we will have a minute’s silence.
When we commemorate and mourn the tragedy and loss of WW1 and all wars,
let us commit ourselves to the ideals of democracy, fair play and the rule of
law, for which they gave so much.