Good morning all and welcome to Phoenix Cemetery
I would like to thank you for joining us this morning for our ANZAC Day commemoration, a very important day for Australians around the world.
I would like to particularly acknowledge:
- Mr Gilbert Liu Man Hin, New Zealand’s Honorary Consul
- the Right Reverend Ian Ernest, Bishop of Mauritius
- Mr Mike Mungur, Chairman of the Mauritius Ex-Services Trust Fund and members of the Ex-Services Trust Fund
- My diplomatic colleagues
- Officers of the Mauritius Police Force
- Members of the Australian and New Zealand community
- Ladies and gentlemen
Between 2014 and 2018 Australia is commemorating the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since our nation’s involvement in the First World War.
The Anzac Centenary is a milestone of special significance to all Australians. The First World War helped define Australia as people and as a nation. The ANZACS left a strong and enduring legacy.
Today we remember not only the original ANZACs who served at Gallipoli and the Western Front, but commemorate more than a century of service by Australian servicemen and women in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It honours the 102,000 who have given their lives for our nation. We meet here today, not to glorify war or praise victors, but to remember those who have served our country during times of conflict and crisis, and to reflect upon their selfless sacrifice.
On this day, in 1915, a group of volunteer Australian and New Zealand soldiers found themselves wading ashore before dawn at a small beach on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Many of these men were only teenagers, some as young as 16. All were anxious to prove their courage and national identity. The Australian and New Zealand troops, together with British, Indian and French forces, met fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders.
In total 36,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers were killed or wounded at Gallipoli, including dozens of indigenous Australians. The campaign ended in failure and at the end of 1915, the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.
But in those terrible battles, young Australians earned a reputation for courage, loyalty, tenacity, self reliance and mateship. The experience drew Australians together as a nation and established the national character.
This ANZAC spirit has been handed down since to all the Australian soldiers, sailors and air personnel who followed them. From WW2 to Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, the gulf and many peacekeeping operations around the globe. The ANZAC spirit forged at Gallipoli will never be forgotten.
We pause today to acknowledge all current and former members of our defence forces – the brave men and women who represent our country on a daily basis. And their families.
A number of you who are here with us today had family – parents, grandparents, great uncles or aunts - who served in World War I or World War II either as servicemen or medical personnel and nurses.
Let us honour their memory, lest we forget. May we also honour Royal Australian Navy Bandsman Arnold Pearce Partington who served during World War II on board HMAS Canberra and died on the 6th April in 1941 at the age of 25 of illness off the coast of Mauritius. Bandsman Partington, whose two brothers also served as Bandsmen in the Royal Navy, was laid to rest here at the Phoenix cemetery.
Some of you here today may recall the special commemorative service which the High Commission organised during the visit of HMAS ANZAC in 2015 which we were very honoured to have the niece of Bandsman Partington participate in.
We have learned that the bugle used to play the last post on ANZAC day in Hobart at the Cenotaph is inscribed ‘Bandsman Arnold Pearce Partington HMAS Canberra died 6 April 1941’. His memory lives on. Lest we forget.
The ANZACs showed us important qualities. We have the ability to face challenges together and overcome them, to put community before self, to be courageous, determined, self-reliant and strong. We should be proud of our heritage. This is the spirit of ANZAC; the spirit that we must pass to the next generations.
The Commonwealth War Graves in this cemetery has laid to rest servicemen from Britain, Mauritius, Rodrigues and Seychelles from the First and Second World Wars – this Phoenix Memorial commemorates the ten casualties of the First World War. In the last two years, a collaboration with L’Ecole du Centre and the Lycee La Bourdonnais has developed an inventory paying tribute to more than 2,000 Mauritians who were engaged in the Great War with Allied armies - Mauritian/Australians like Georges Tostee, and the many who also served with the British, American, Canadian, French, Indian and South Africans.
Poppies have long been integral to Remembrance Day – growing wild on the Western Front. While rosemary is an ancient symbol of remembrance. Rosemary has added significance for Australians on Anzac Day as it grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula. While our ANZAC biscuits were created to endure the long journey to Australian soldiers serving overseas.
While no Australian veterans of the Gallipoli campaign are still with us, Australians across the nation and all around the world gather on ANZAC Day to remember our fallen service personnel with commemorative services – often held at dawn, the time the original landing too place. Around 2,300 Australian Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed on operations continuing the ANZAC spirit, including in this region under the US led Combined Maritime Forces operation to counter piracy and counter terrorism in the Middle East and Indian Ocean.
The ANZAC’s courage, endurance, and mateship forged a spirit and legend that lives on today and it is this that we remember and honour on this anniversary. They will never be forgotten.
My great, great Uncle Edward Dee, born in Bulahdelah near the New South Wales Coast in 1883, served in the First World War and was killed in action on sentry duty on the front line in February 1918 in France. On the spur of the moment, he enlisted. His letters have been published in a family history of the Dee family - The Lion’s Pride. From France, on 26 April 1917, Edward Dee writes “…We have had a hard time this Winter. France was nothing but a field of snow as far as the eye could see the only break would be where a shell would lob that would leave a black patch…Please god I will have next winter at home alongside a warm fire and in a warm bed. I lay in my hammock at night I can hear the boom of our big guns the thunder of our guns make the earth tremble. We had a memorial service here on the 25th April Anzac day to commemorate the landing of the Australians on Gallipoli but they have added great laurels to their name since then. It used to be awfully cold in the trenches at night our feet used to be so cold we did not know whether we had feet or not. But thank god I am safe and sound and trust and pray that I will be carried right through and landed home safely. I hope this terrible war will soon be over…”
Lest we forget.
25 April 2018