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Anzac Day Crowds Grow.
by Cameron Outridge

Large crowds again took part in a moving Citizen’s Memorial Service in Maleny on Friday. Members of the crowd said this year’s service was particularly poingnant, considering the backdrop of the Iraq war.   But speakers and ex-servicemen were quick to point out that Anzac Day was not a celebration of war, but a day of remembrance, a day to reflect on the sacrifice and commitment by Australian Servicemen and women, past and present.

The Anzac Day schedule included the Dawn Service at the RSL Memorial Hall followed by a Gunfire Breakfast; the Witta Cemetery Service; the Maleny Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Service; ANZAC Day March and Wirraway flypast; and the Commemorative Service, including an F111 flypast.   Guest speaker was retired Brigadier Rod Curtis, AM MC; a Mapleton resident who served in Malaya, Borneo and South Vietnam; and commanded the Army’s special forces during his distinguished military career.    He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. his address appears below.

Address by Brigadier Rod Curtis, AM, MC, retired, at Friday’s Anzac Day Service.

When considering what I might say this morning, I reflected upon the 12 months that have passed since last Anzac Day.   This last 12 months has clearly been a difficult period, both for Australia and the wider global community.  From Australia’s perspective, our geographic isolation proved to be no defence against the evil of trans-national terrorism, when just six months ago, on 12 October 2002, 88 innocent, fun loving, young Australians were killed and many more maimed and scarred for life in savage and unprovoked attack in Bali.

This followed the 11th September Al Queda terrorist attack on the United States of America in New York and Washington.

These two barbaric acts have changed the world in which we live.  The Bali bombings have brought the spectre of terrorism into the lives of all Australians.

This occurred at a time when Australia faced the worst drought and bush fires in its short history.  With devastating effect on many Australian families and impacting adversely on the economy.  During this time Australia also sent our SAS Soldiers to Afghanistan to join coalition forces in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and now sees our soldiers, sailors and airmen in Iraq.

Despite this gloomy background, Australia remains the lucky country. We are a country rich in natural and human resources.  And unlike many other nations we enjoy the liberty and freedom our open democratic processes allow. For this we can be thankful to previous generations of Australians who through their commitment and sacrifice have given us a quality of life the like of which many other nations can only dream.

At this time in 2001, I was at Gallipoli, at a place called North Beach with my wife and some close friends.  It was there, 88 years ago, that Australian troops of the 3rd BDE, 1st Division, AIF came ashore only minutes after the first landings of Australian and New Zealand troops a little further south at Air Burnu and Anzac Cove.    I recall it was a brisk cold morning, still quite dark.    You could hear the waves of the Aegaen Sea lapping gently on the Pebble Beach a short distance away.  I felt secure surrounded by fellow Australian’s, Kiwis, Turks and other from many different nations.

In the first grey light of dawn I could see Australian veterans bedecked with medals. There were young people huddled together against the morning chill.  Some with the Australian flag draped over their shoulders, others were curled up in sleeping bags.  

We were all waiting quietly for the commencement of the dawn service.    Those who were talking did so in hushed tones. There was an air of solemnity. This was a special place.   That dawn service at Anzac Cove was a most moving and memorable experience. As dawn broke and the last post sounded I looked behind me.    The first of the suns early morning rays outline the rocky outcrop called the Sphinx.   A sight that our Anzacs would have seen at this time back in 1915.

The scene then of course would have been quite different.   Picture in your mind the many landing craft crammed with soldiers.   The first wave of the 11th Battalion are heading towards the Sphinx.   Something is wrong.   They’re off course.   They should be further south near the sandy beach at Gaba Tepe.   The noise of the supporting naval bombardment is deafening.   The crack and thump of small arms fire is incessant.   Soldiers are now in the water, scrambling ashore.   NCO’s and officers are using them on.   The chaos and mayhem as more soldiers are landed and scramble off the narrow beach and up the steep crags under intense turkish fire.   The cries for help and sobbing of the wounded go almost unnoticed.   Shortly after the first landings of the 11th Battalion, Australians of the second wave, men of the 12th Battalion, landed at North Beach and fought their way to the main plateau of Russel’s top.   Some tackled the heights of the Sphinx, while others worked their way along walker’s Ridge.   The Anzac’s objective was to capture the heights of a range called Sari Bair and then advance inland to Mal Tepe to prevent the Turks reinforcing Cape Heles to the south where the British forces were landing.

It took the Anzac’s about a week to consolidate their positions within an area known as “Old Anzac”.   It would be four months before an attempt was made to capture the higher ground with assaults on Lone Pine by the Australian first division, while New Zealand infantry pushed on to Chunuk Bair.

The Anzacs who took part in that fiercely opposed landing and who then clung tenaciously to the scrubby cliffs would not have thought that their landing and the subsequent operations, which cost the lives of 8,600 Australians and 2,500 New Zealanders, with collectively some 24,000 more wounded and which ended in a withdrawal 8 months later, would provide the foundation upon which a national day of commemoration would be built.   It is interesting to contemplate why the Gallipoli Campaining, with its strategic blunders and incompetent high command, should now be a day of national remembrance.

The rationale of Anzac Day lies not in the military operation. But rather it is imbedded in the spirit in which the battles were fought. Anzac Day became a reality because Australian and New Zealand soldiers demonstrated a cohesiveness and comraderie, a unique morale which translated into their dogged fighting spirit. A spirit born out of a quest for adventure which matured to endure the rigours of war. The fighting spirit of the Anzacs had the effect of uniting Australia and all Australians.   As important as this event was to Australia, the great war was not our war. Australia and New Zealand were contributing soldiers to British Empire Forces. Australia still saw itself as a self governing colony. Our politicians could not grasp the notion of Australia as a nation independent of Britain.    Twenty four years later, on the 3rd of September 1939, Australia’s Prime Minister announced that “Great Britain had declared war on Germany and, as a result, Australia was also at war”.

Australia and New Zealand again sent, in support of the British Empire, contingent’s from all three services. Less than two years later, Japan’s Pacific Offensive commenced and for the first time in our history the government and its military advisers were making strategic decisions which affected the very security of Australia.   The fall of Singapore on the 15th February 1942; were events that brought into clear focus the real issue of Australia’s sovereignty. It was a defining point in Australia’s short history.    The events of 1942 caused Australia’s Prime Minister to demand the return of Australian Troops from the Middle East. With their return and with America’s commitment of forces in the South West Pacific, the Pacific campaign began to turn in the allies favour.   In June 1943, the Prime Minister announced Australia was no longer threatened with invasion.

With the end of World War Two and the beginning of the so called Cold War, Australia welcomed not only British migrants but also large numbers of European migrants. Our predominantly British Heritage was changing. The colony in the south was finally taking on and developing a new truly independent Australian character which was matured over the years into our diverse ethnic society of which we should all be proud.   The spirit of Anzac was born at Gallipoli 88 years ago and, on this day, it is proper that we should pause to remember all those men and women who have honourably served their country and continue to serve in Timor, Iraq, the African sub continent, the Middle East and many other places. In particular we remember those killed, or have died of wounds, or who have been permanently injured of afflicted as a consequence of war.   In serving their country they wanted Australia and the world to be a better place. Where divisiveness and enmity would be replaced by cooperation and unity, in pursuit of a society which would be inclusive, fair and united in purpose for the good of all.   We are all stake holders in this pursuit, but the key stakeholders are our children and their successive generations. The uniqueness and importance of this National day must not be lost on our youth.

At Anzac Cove I saw thousands of young Australians, who had made the pilgrimage to Gallipoli for Anzacday. Most had taken time out from back packing around the UKor Europe. Their sense of fun, good naturedness and zest for adventure are all reminiscent of the Anzac spirit. Just prior to the commencement of the Australian service at Lone Pine, which followed the daw n service. The master of ceremonies announced that there were a few seats vacant in the official enclosure. He invited Australian veteran’s without a seat to come forward. Out of the crowd came a few veterans.   As they moved forward the young Australians as one rose to their feet and they cheered and applauded.   It was a most moving acknowledgment of the veterans. But more importantly it demonstrated that these young Australians appreciated the importance of Anzac Day and they recognised the efforts and sacrifice that preceding generations had made.

On this Anzac Day and during these difficult times it is well to remember;   That it is the role of our servicemen and women to defend our nation and its interests.   It is our servicemen and women who have experienced the horrors of war, who above all else, want peace.   It is our servicemen and women who by their commitment and sacrifice have insured that you and me remain free to gather and express our views without fear of harsh reprisal.

 

Photo Above:  RSL President  Frank Beattie with young bugler,Ross Vickers

Photo Above:  ANZAC Day Parade

It is our servicemen and women who accept that peace and liberty comes at a price and the price of peace and liberty is eternal vigilance.  Lest We Forget.

Our thanks once again to Cameron & Tanya Outridge
of the Range News Newspaper for this story.