New Zealand Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands

ANZAC Day Address, Westduin Cemetery, The Hague

The Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors to the Netherlands, Lydia Morton (left) and Rachel Fry, lay a wreath During ANZAC Day commemorations at Westduin Cemetery, The Hague.

By Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands, HE Lydia Morton

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My New Zealand colleague, Rachel Fry, and I welcome you to the ANZAC Day service in The Hague.

This ANZAC Day marks the 95th anniversary of Australia and New Zealand’s first significant military action. On the 25th of April 1915, during the first World War, 16,000 young servicemen from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed as part of the forces of the British Empire, on the Gallipoli Peninsular in Turkey. During the eight months of the battle, 8709 Australians and 2700 New Zealand servicemen lost their lives. A further 43,000 allied troops from the British Empire and France lost their lives. And 87,000 Turkish soldiers lost their lives.

This service is to commemorate all soldiers who served and who died, not only in that battle, or that war, but in all other service for their country.

We will not forget.

We remember in particular the three members of the Royal New Zealand Airforce who died in an accident this morning near Wellington in New Zealand.

We will not forget.

We are holding this service at Westduin cemetery in The Hague where there are 87 graves of Commonwealth servicemen who died here during the Second World War. Most of the casualties were Commonwealth airmen who undertook missions as part of the British Bomber Command’s operations over the industrialized areas of Germany. Eighty of these graves have names. But to us here today, they remain as unknown as the 17 whose names are “known only unto God”.

I would like to tell you something about one of the young men who lie buried here, Sergeant David Poole Speechley, who died on 26 July 1943 aged 20 years. He lies in Row 4, Grave 71. Mr Lednardes Scholtes lived near here as a teenager and heard the bombing raids flying overhead. After the war he migrated to Australia. These war graves were Mr Scholtes’ only connections to Australia. So he took with him photographs of the graves. By pure coincidence, Mr Scholtes went to live in the same small town in Victoria where David Speechley’s sister lived. Mr Scholtes was able to show her a picture of her brother David’s grave, which she and her mother had never seen. Mr Scholtes learnt that David Speechley had been born in Melbourne and after leaving school, he had worked for the Shell Oil Company. He had joined the RAAF when he turned 18 and was trained as a navigator. On 25 July 1943, he had crewed a Wellington bomber which took off from Leconfield RAF base at 11.46 pm with the German town of Essen as its target. On its way back after the raid, the bomber had been attacked by a German nightfighter and had crashed into the sea near the Dutch coast. Here I quote directly from Mr Scholtes’ research:

“His sister told me that after the war David's regular pilot told her that he was in squadron 460 but on the night when he lost his life, he had offered voluntarily to take the place of a sick bombardier in squadron 466 so he could experience his first war flight.

Sadly it turned out to be his last.

Two bodies were washed ashore, David's and Warrant Officer Jack Harrison-Owen.

Both were buried at Westduin Cemetery. WO Jack Harrison-Owen is buried two graves up from David.”

We will not forget.

This ANZAC Day service is also to honour the civilians who died or have been affected by war. In another part of this cemetery is a monument to the Stijkel Group, a civilian resistance group who fought the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War 2. Forty-seven lie buried here.

The Hague is also a special place to commemorate ANZAC Day because it is the city of peace and justice, where alternative forums for the resolution of disputes and the pursuit of lasting peace have been established. In 1899 and 1907, at the initiative of Czar Nicholas II, this city hosted the Hague Peace Conferences to discuss peace and disarmament. The Conferences established a permanent Court of Arbitration for the peaceful resolution of disputes between states. The beautiful Peace Palace was built in 1913 to house the Court. Since 1945, it has also housed the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The Hague is also home to the International Criminal Court and other international criminal tribunals.

We are privileged this morning to have Justice Kevin Parker of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia participate in today’s service.

This service is also to honour the families and friends of those who died in service of their country, both at war and in peace keeping and humanitarian operations.

We are privileged to have the participation of Mr Peter John Davey of the Royal Australian Navy in this service. Mr Davey saw active duty in Vietnam on HMAS Sydney and HMAS Perth. He is also the father of Lieutenant Matthew Peter Davey, a medical officer with the Royal Australian Navy Reserves who lost his life on the 2nd of April 2005, at the age of 32, while providing emergency medical aid to survivors of an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.

We will not forget.

I would also like to acknowledge the presence of members of the Dutch armed forces who have served alongside Australian military forces in the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations. This service honours the 11 Australian servicemen and the 23 Dutch servicemen who have given their lives in this mission, including the latest two Dutch casualties Jeroen Houweling and Marc Harders of the Royal Dutch Marines Corps, who were killed by a roadside bomb on 17 April. We also honour those who continue to serve to bring peace and justice in Afghanistan.

We will not forget.

ANZAC Day is about loss. But for Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC Day also brings with it a sense of honour, pride in our nations’ achievements and gratitude for those who have served, and continue to serve our nations.

A traditional part of the ANZAC Day service are the words by Kamal Attaturk which express this sentiment so beautifully. We are privileged to have His Excellency Mr Ugur Dogan, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey read Attatuk’s words for us today.

I thank you all for your participation in this ANZAC Day service.

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