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Thursday, 10 November 2005
Page: 208

Senator JOYCE (6:47 PM) —It is a great pleasure to rise today to talk about Armistice Day tomorrow. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we should all stop and remember those in our country who have fallen. On 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent over the Western Front. Across the world, there was cause for celebration, but it was strongly mixed with feelings of sadness and loss as families had to deal with the death and destruction that had occurred. There was hardly a town or family in Australia that escaped the effects of the war. More than 416,000 people joined up, and more than 330,000 men and women served overseas with Australian forces in World War I. Of these, more than 60,000 paid the ultimate price for their service to the nation. It is for that reason that we remember those who have fallen with a red poppy, such as those that have been seen around here today.

In our own reflection, tonight I thought it would be good to give an example of a family’s involvement in that war, and I chose my own family. My mother’s father, Thomas Roche, served in the Great War from 1914 to 1918. He put up his age to do so, as he was only 16, joined the Flying Corps and served on the northern battlefields of France. He served at Messines Ridge as a radio operator. He sailed from Australia in the Marathon in July 1916, going first to Blenheim Barracks. Then he spent 14 months on the front line under heavy fire. That brought on an attack of double pneumonia, which took him back to England. Then he was returned to Australia on a hospital ship.

My other grandfather, John Patrick Joyce, 2/512, was with the 6th Battery of the 2nd Army Brigade in the New Zealand field artillery. He received a citation under special order No. 200/1920. His service commenced on 7 September, when he was seconded to the New Zealand expeditionary forces as a gunner. On 12 October, he embarked for Egypt with the main body of the New Zealand expeditionary forces. He met up with the Australians at Albany in Western Australia. They left Albany and were escorted by HMS Sydney and a Japanese cruiser called the Obuka. They went through the Indian Ocean, and whilst they were there the Sydney engaged the Emden, which it sank off the Cocos Islands.

On 25 April, he arrived at Gallipoli—he arrived on the first day. On 21 October, he was appointed a battery sergeant major. On 22 December, he returned to Egypt, which was the end of the campaign—so he arrived on the first day and he left on the last. On 7 April 1916, he embarked for France. On 15 January 1917, he was detached to Aldershot for courses in gunnery and physical training. On 10 February 1918, he embarked for France again and was there until the end of the war. He returned to England on 24 January 1919 after being part of the occupation forces.

In the next war, on 8 February 1942 he was seconded to the New Zealand expeditionary forces for the Pacific section. On 4 September 1942, he returned to New Zealand. On 14 January 1943, he was detached to special duties in the Pacific. On 14 July, he returned to New Zealand. On 31 October, in about 1944, he ceased secondment to the 2nd New Zealand expeditionary forces. His total service was 36 years and 233 days. His war service in the First World War was four years and 250 days. His war service in the Second World War was one year and 261 days. He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal and a military OBE. His permanent rank at discharge—and he started as a gunner—was Lieutenant Colonel.

During operations in April near Messines, he carried out his duties under very difficult circumstances in a capable and gallant manner. Owing to casualties amongst officers, he was several times in charge of the wagon lines and always maintained the ammunition supplies under heavy shellfire. In the operations near Bapume during August and September 1918, on several occasions when the lines were shelled, his courage and coolness largely helped to avoid serious loss.

My grandfather married a lady he met in a munitions factory in the Midlands of England. All of my grandmother’s brothers—there were seven of them—were killed, from the Boer War through to fighting the communists and in the Crimea. We knew that the second to last one starved to death. The final one was brought back and made an air-raid warden. He too died, after a direct hit. It goes to show their involvement and how lucky we are to live in the days that we do. My other grandmother’s two brothers both fought. One fought with the Light Horse in Palestine. The other one was in the Air Force.

Many of those people carried the scars for the rest of their lives. It was a well-known fact that people who went away to war never came back quite the same. Now in every town and in every hall stands an honour roll showing the names of families who have long been forgotten by schoolchildren. Many will not have the benefit of a descendant remembering them in an adjournment speech, so it is very important that we remember them here tonight. Australia’s population was approximately five million, yet 53,993 people were killed, 137,013 were wounded, 16,496 were gassed, there were 7,727 non-battle deaths and 109 died as prisoners of war.

We acknowledge all those who have served, those who died, those who were maimed, those who were left widowed, those who were left orphaned, those who had their whole lives changed and those who left opportunities behind to serve their country, as people continue to do today. We acknowledge that, on their sacrifice, our nation—the nation we so proudly represent tonight here in this parliament—was born. We are blessed that, hopefully, our lot will not be as monumental as theirs. We are blessed that we can stay at home with our families, follow our careers and plan for our dreams. We have a duty to stop and appreciate the names on the memorials in every small town, school hall, large town monument or city monument.

We acknowledge those who now continue on in our Defence Force, and we pray for their safety and their families’ peace. It is fitting that, with poppies in buttonholes, as we sit row on row in this chamber, we remember the significance of that gesture as seen through the eyes of John McRae, in his poem In Flanders Fields:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.