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Commemorative mission to the 11 November 2003 dedication of the Australian War Memorial in London : address by His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC\nCVO MC: 3 November 2003.



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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL JEFFERY AC CVO MC

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF

COMMEMORATIVE MISSION TO THE 11 NOVEMBER 2003 DEDICATION OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL IN LONDON

3 NOVEMBER 2003

Veterans and war widows taking part in the Commemorative Mission to London Their friends and relatives Sir Alastair Goodlad, British High Commissioner Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Hon Larry Anthony, and his Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues Major General Adrian Clunies-Ross, Chair of Australian War Memorial Council Distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning, and a very warm welcome to Government House.

Marlena and I are delighted to host this very distinguished gathering - especially the 30 veterans and war widows who are going to London for the Dedication.

I’m honoured to see present Mr Ted Kenna VC, our last surviving World War II Victoria Cross recipient, and Mrs Marjorie Kenna.

I’d like to highly commend all who have played a role in the establishment of the Australian War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner.

Such a London memorial was mooted as far back as the end of World War I, but the idea never quite got off the ground.

The decision to construct the Hyde Park memorial was announced in July 2000 by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Howard during Centenary of Federation celebrations.

And rightly so, because Australians have served alongside Britons in many theatres of conflict - from the Boer War to Iraq.

In this country’s wartime history, no alliance has been as strong and enduring as that with Great Britain - a relationship based on our earliest days as a British colony, with its deep historical, cultural and constitutional ties.

And - among the numerous shared conflicts I alluded to - none was more significant than the two World Wars, during which Great Britain played such a pivotal role, particularly in the early, lonely, dangerous years, and, in the process, lost more than one million servicemen and women.

So it’s only fitting that these sacrifices of our two nations are enshrined in a memorial in London.

The World Wars were titanic struggles in which the whole of Western civilisation - including its freedom, democratic institutions and culture - was at stake, and, indeed, in both wars, almost lost.

Whether it was the result of answering the “call of Empire”, or recognising mutual interests and shared responsibilities, Australia demonstrated great dedication, love of what was then still considered the “Mother Country”, and intense mobilisation energy in providing major support to Britain.

In World War I - when Australia pledged its commitment “to the last man and the last shilling” - a staggering 415,000 young Australians enlisted out of a population of just 4.5 million.

And following Robert Menzies’s sombre radio address of 3 September 1939 - in which he said “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war” - about one million Australians signed up for service throughout the course of World War II.

This enlistment from a population of just 7 million in 1939.

Overall, more than 101,000 Australians lost their lives in the World Wars and, among Commonwealth countries in the First War, our fatalities-to-population ratio was second only to New Zealand.

In the Second World War, we suffered one of the highest military personnel losses in the world as a proportion of population.

The names of the places at which Australians - especially from the AIF - and Britons fought and suffered together are legend and evocative: Gallipoli, the Western Front, the Middle East, North Africa, Tobruk, Changi, Sandakan and the Thai-Burma Railway.

Also, Australian aircrews flew in defence of Britain in combat over Europe and South East Asia, and members of the Royal Australian Navy served alongside, and in, British vessels in every ocean of the world.

In terms of heroic service in the air, I’m reminded of the famous 460 Squadron, which served in Bomber Command over Europe in World War II.

That Squadron dropped a greater tonnage of bombs than any other, it suffered more casualties than any other, and its members had only a 40 per cent chance of surviving a full tour.

Many other famous Australian squadrons served in Bomber, Fighter and Coastal Commands - with 10 Squadron staying in Britain for the whole of the war, and our fighter pilots taking part in the Battle of Britain.

When we speak of naval actions, I think, for example, of HMAS Sydney - which sank the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni off Crete in July 1940 as part of a joint action with British destroyers.

Our sailors - including some here today - served in waters as far afield as the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Tokyo Bay.

And we also think of Lieutenant Colonel “Weary” Dunlop, and his doctors and orderlies, creating medical miracles out of nothing on the Burma-Thai Railway.

Ladies and gentlemen.

War memorials are now firmly part of the Australian ethos.

They radiate a powerful spiritual dimension - none more so than the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra.

It’s not just the granite, poppies and the engraved names of loved ones, but the sense of tranquillity, sacrifice, mateship and gallantry they also exude.

As we’ve seen in recent years at places such as Gallipoli, Australians - and especially young Australians - are now showing greater interest in those defining moments of our wartime history.

In a period of sometimes bewildering change, war memorials are a symbol of stability, example and continuity - something that goes beyond the here and now.

Yet, they’re also relevant, vital and alive.

So much so that, increasingly in recent years, the values that have formed the basis of the Anzac spirit during conflict are now recognised as desirable national characteristics.

In particular, I speak of courage, mateship, loyalty and good humour, particularly in the face of extreme adversity.

The dedication, on Remembrance Day, of the new Australian War Memorial in London will be an opportunity to renew the ties of history, sacrifice, success and remembrance that have bound and continue to bind Britain and Australia so closely together.

Like Gallipoli and the War Memorial here, I’m confident the London Memorial will become a regular place of pilgrimage for tens of thousands of Australians, young and old.

To the delegation members, Marlena and I hope you have a simply wonderful trip - that it’s emotionally inspiring and, as such, will remain forever in your memories.

You go to Britain, to represent us all, with our heart-felt thanks, our deepest admiration and our best wishes.

God bless you all.

Thank you.