Kevin Rudd’s Remembrance Day Address

This is the text of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Commemorative Address at the Remembrance Day Service, held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

ANZAC Bridge StatueFellow Australians, friends of Australia, Veterans of Australia:

90 years ago today, the great guns fell silent.

After fours years of bloodshed, the battlefields were silent.

Great empires had been broken.

Millions, millions lay dead.

Among them, sixty thousand Australian heroes whose final resting place will forever be foreign soil.

And then there were the wounded a further one hundred and fifty thousand whose bodies and minds were to be forever scarred by the horrors of war.

And all this from a country of some four millions.

The scale of the carnage; the new ways of killing on an almost industrial scale; the tiny pieces of land over which so much blood was spilt; the sheer, stark horror of life and death in the trenches made all peoples hope that this could never happen again.

It was called the War to End All Wars.

But we now know that it was not.

It was the First World War.

The League of Nations did not prevent a Second.

Barely a generation had passed before the killing began again.

This time on a mass scale that saw civilians too as the target of war.

Once again the years of destruction made victors and vanquished alike commit afresh to peace.

Once again an international institution was established to maintain the peace once again representing the hopes and aspirations of all humankind.

But war has continued and the innocent continue to die.

Causing us all to ask, is war our permanent condition?

Must every generation go through war to be reminded why there should be no war?

Or can we dare to do something different, can we dare to think something different.

Not just to be informed from history.

But to learn from history.

We have all endured a most bloody century.

But let us resolve afresh at the dawn of this new century, this century of the Pacific, that this might just be a truly (inaudible) peaceful century.

Let us resolve afresh to build the habits of cooperation rather than to yield to the inevitability of conflict.

Let all peoples of goodwill resolve afresh for peace, resolve afresh a century free from the threat of nuclear war.

So that our world community can work with one heart and one mind for the great challenges of our age.

Of course tyranny cannot and can never be wished away with a pen.

Tyrants must always be confronted when all other options are exhausted.

And that means that the price of peace remains eternal vigilance.

That is why we need our men and women in uniform.

That is why we are proud of our men and women in uniform.

That is why we are proud of the 100,000 names etched in the walls of this great memorial.

We as a nation have paid a great price.

Think of the war which ended 90 years ago today.

    Gallipoli: 26,000 casualties.

  • Fromelles: 5,500 Australian casualties.
  • Pozieres: nearly 7000 Australia casualties.
  • Bullecourt: 7500 Australian casualties.
  • Ypres: 38,000 Australian casualties.

Today these numbers are mind-numbing, they are horrific in their magnitude.

90 years ago the Australian troops on the Western Front were at the forefront of the fighting.

The Australian Corps played a critical role in the actions that helped bring about the end of the war.

They brought some of Australia’s greatest victories.

They saw some of the greatest acts of heroism.

In August, led by Monash, the Australians attacked from Villers-Bretonneux and Hamel, fighting side-by-side with our Americans allies for the first time.

They drove back the enemy lines.

Ludendorff described it as the black day of the German army.

In September, Australian diggers fought at Peronne and Mont St Quentin.

In October, Australian troops of the Second Division broke through the Hindenburg Line at La Motte Farm and Mushroom Quarry.

And again they drove the enemy back.

This was the last engagement of the Australian troops in the war.

These victories helped to set the path for the Armistice to be signed in November.

They are part of the proud tradition of the Australian military, each one of them heroes of Australia and we honour them.

And today too we honour our friends and our allies who have been with us in the thick of battle.

Behind every name on the walls of this great memorial is a story.

The story of someone in uniform, someone who gave their conflict, a very human story, a very personal story, a story of a family and families changed forever.

The story of communities changed forever.

For the loss of one of their sons.

This great memorial, looking down this great avenue of heroes, honours them all.

As we as a nation honour them today.

It honours what they have achieved in the name of Australia.

And through honouring them, we remember them.

In the words of Charles Bean, in this memorial Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved.

It is right that we honour the service and sacrifice of the fallen today.

It is right that we honour all those who have served.

And it is right that we remember today those who are still serving.

For there is no higher calling in Australia than to wear the uniform of Australia.

What is the message of this 90th Armistice Day?

I believe each of the fallen would say to us this, be forever vigilant and be equally unstinting in the preservation of the peace.

Today we remember those who fell.

We honour the contribution they have made to this great nation Australia.

We honour the contribution they have made to the world.

And we commit ourselves to upholding the values for which these Australians, these hundred thousands and more Australians who gave their lives in the service of this nation.

And we commit ourselves afresh to the great cause of peace.

We honour them.

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