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RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] National Memorial Walk, Brisbane, Sunday, 22 November 1998: address on the occasion of the dedication.

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At the beginning of March I was privileged to speak at a ceremony in Canberra marking the start of a series of events celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Australian Regiment - the senior infantry regiment of the Australian Army. Today, those celebrations culminate with the opening of the Royal Australian Regiment National Memorial Walk here at the Gallipoli Barracks, where so many of the battalions have been stationed over the years.

As you know, the Memorial consists of two parts. There is the Contemplation Building, open on two sides, built to contain a complete Regimental Roll of Honour to the Fallen. And there is the Memorial Walk itself, winding through groves of Australian native trees - truly a living memorial. At the base of 685 of those trees there is a plaque bearing the regimental number, name, unit and place of death of one of those members who have died overseas while serving in a battalion of the Regiment whether it be Japan, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam or some more recent location where personnel have been posted. The first of those to die overseas was Private R. L. Chamberlain who died on 7 April 1949 while serving in Japan. The most recent was Private A.R. Watt who died on 12 June this year while serving in Malaysia. Here, among young and growing trees that are redolent of the very nature of the country they loved, we will remember them. And even as the rest of us inexorably grow old, they will always stay young here in this special place dedicated to them, their deeds, their sacrifice and their memory.

Memorial avenues and plantations of trees have an honoured place in the Australian tradition of commemoration of our servicemen and women. And it is particularly fitting that we are dedicating the National Memorial Walk on the very eve of the actual anniversary of the Regiment’s formation. For it was on 23 November 1948, that the Australian Regiment, as it was then known, was formed from the three Australian infantry battalions serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. These battalions had been raised in October 1945, from Second World War veterans serving in

Borneo and elsewhere.

The new battalions possessed a wealth of military experience and since they were formed from volunteers from the wartime AIF and some militia units, they carried with them the traditions of the AIF as well as having links with the pre-war militia. In March


1949, the regiment became the Royal Australian Regiment. The regimental badge is distinctly Australian, featuring the kangaroo and a wattle wreath. The boomerang at the base of the badge had been used in the tactical signs of the 2nd AIF from which the original units had been raised. The crossed rifles signify the personal weapons of the infantry. The crown was added to reflect the Regiment’s royal title.

As I observed at the ceremony last March, during the First World War, the AIF had had eight months of training before landing at Gallipoli. In the Second World War, the first units of the Second AIF had 14 months of training before battle. By contrast, when war came in Korea and the Australian Government decided to commit Australian forces to assist in the defence of South Korea, 3 RAR had only about two months’ notice. Nonetheless, its performance was exemplary. The battalion was to be awarded the US Presidential Citation for its part in the battle of Kapyong in 1951.

The events of the years which followed were to demonstrate the value of a regular army. All three battalions were eventually to serve in Korea. Then, in 1955, after the end of the Korean commitment, 2 RAR was deployed to Malaya to help fight the communist terrorists during the Emergency in that country. The Australian battalions were to serve in Malaya, Malaysia and Singapore until 1973. By that time, all three regular battalions had served in the Emergency, while 3 RAR and the newly formed 4 RAR had also served in Borneo during the Malaysian-Indonesian confrontation.

The military flexibility conferred by the existence of the RAR was again demonstrated when, in April 1965, the government announced that 1 RAR was to be sent to Vietnam. The number of regular battalions was increased to nine, and all served in Vietnam. Most conducted two one-year tours of duty. During this period thousands of National Servicemen served in the Regiment with great distinction. Indeed, the bonds between the regular army and national service soldiers remain strong to this day. As in Korea, the battalions in Vietnam performed with outstanding bravery and professionalism, and D Company 6 RAR received the US Presidential Citation for its part in the Battle of

Long Tan in 1966.

After the Vietnam War, the number of battalions in the Regiment was reduced and training focussed on the defence of Australia rather than overseas commitments. However, battalions of the Regiment remain at a constant state of readiness as part of the Operational Deployment Force. In recent years members have seen service in Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda and currently in Bougainville. Ready Reserve and Reserve soldiers have also served with professionalism and distinction, their service adding another dimension to the Regiment and the defence of Australia.

The key to the Regiment’s success has always been the dedication and ability of all its members. Australia and all Australians owe an incalculable debt to them. They have served their Regiment loyally and extraordinarily well both at home and overseas. Just as the Regiment has served our nation.

The battle honours from Korea to Vietnam which we have seen honoured this morning testify to the Regiment’s great record of service. Indeed, the Regiment and its members have built on the achievements and traditions of the past to establish the pattern and set the standards of our modem regular Australian Infantry. The hallmark of the

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soldiers of the Royal Australian Regiment has always been the pride and dedication of professionals, driven by a sense of duty and responsibility. Duty First has truly been and still is the measure of the Regiment. And qualities associated with Duty First - Sacrifice, Dedication, Loyalty, Skill, patriotism - are poignantly laid plain before us by the 685 plaques beneath the trees in the Memorial Walk.

As Governor-General and on behalf of the Australian people I acknowledge and thank the past and present members of the Regiment, both deceased and living, together with their families, for all that they have given to the Regiment, to the Australian Defence Force and to their country over the past 50 years. I congratulate members of the Queensland Division and all those who have contributed to the success of this project. From this day, as we walk through, and in the future beneath, the stands of trees which will grow tall and strong and offer the protection of shade and shelter, we will remember with pride and gratitude the service of the Royal Australian Regiment during its first 50 years. And look with confidence to the Regiment’s future in all the years that lie ahead.

And now on behalf of all Australians, I shall unveil the dedication stone and declare open the Contemplation Building and National Memorial Walk to the memory of those members of the Royal Australian Regiment who died overseas in the service of their country. May they all rest with God.