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Speech at the presentation of the Legion of Honour to Australian World War II veterans by the Minister for Veterans Affairs: War Memorial, Canberra.



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The Hon De-Anne Kelly MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence at the

Presentation of the Legion of Honour to Australian World War II veterans

Western Courtyard Australian War Memorial

Tuesday 22 February 2005

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It is my privilege to welcome you here today for the presentation of the Legion of Honour to five of our Australian veterans.

There could be no more fitting place in our land for such an occasion than at our national shrine to those who have served and died in the defence of Australia.

Within these walls lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier - the Digger who represents all of those Australians who have given their lives for the nation in wartime.

It is a testament to our shared history that this unknown Digger was brought home from the fields of France.

More than half the Australians who died during World War I gave their lives fighting on French soil. To this day, more than 21,000 Australians are buried in France and some 12,000 more remain listed on memorials to the missing throughout France.

Compared with other nations, our losses were relatively small, but when considered in relation to the population of Australia it was a dreadful impact on our communities.

Despite the cost of our service during that conflict, Australians did not hesitate to answer the call when France was invaded again in World War II.

Many Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen served in operations to liberate the French people, including the D-Day operations of 6 June 1944.

The French Government last year honoured a small group of Australian D-Day veterans to mark the 60th anniversary of that historic event.

Today, these five Australians join their comrades among the small number of foreign servicemen and women to receive the Legion of Honour.

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Each of them served with courage and distinction. Between them, they represent our three armed services and the thousands of our countrymen and women who served during World War II.

We are proud that the French Government has chosen to bestow its highest decoration on this group.

France’s magnificent gesture today honours the thousands of Australians who have fought to defend the democratic ideals that we share.

It tells us that the people of France have not forgotten the Australians who came to their aid.

It reminds us of the great friendship that exists between our two nations.

This year, as we join in remembering the end of World War II, we renew that friendship and pledge ourselves to keeping alive for new generations the memory of those - Australians and French alike - who gave their lives.

Minister - Ambassador - I can say with great confidence that these five Australians are honoured beyond measure by the awards they receive from your country.

But I can also say, on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, that today you honour us all.

Thank you.