Anzac Day 2013 address by Ambassador Reuben Levermore

Ambassador Levermore delivers the Anzac Day address.

Anzac Day Address - Ambassador of New Zealand, H.E. Reuben Levermore

Libingan ng mga Bayani (The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Thursday 25 April 2013

Under-secretary of National Defense, Attorney Pio Batino;

Other senior members of the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines;

Veterans;

Colleagues from the diplomatic and consular corps;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ninety eight years ago today, some 30,000 members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. 

By the end of that day in 1915, the ANZACs had suffered heavy casualties. 

Today, all around the world, Australians and New Zealanders pause to remember them, and their sacrifice. 

In the eight months of battle that followed the 25th of April landing, our young men fought an ultimately futile campaign to secure and occupy the Gallipoli Peninsula.  During that time, more than 11,000 New Zealanders and Australians were killed and another 24,000 wounded. 

In 1915 our two countries were in the infancy of nationhood - young countries, with small populations.  The population of New Zealand then was only one million, and of Australia less than five million.  Of the New Zealand troops who landed at Gallipoli, almost one-third were killed, and more than half were wounded. 

But it was not only New Zealand and Australia that suffered.  The entire Gallipoli campaign accounted for around 87,000 Turkish lives, and 44,000 from the British Empire and France.

Today, therefore, we also remember the Turks, our courageous and determined adversaries.  On the ridges above what is now known as Anzac Cove there was mutual respect between the ANZAC and Turkish soldiers.  During an armistice to bury the dead in May 1915, they shook hands and swapped cigarettes and other little mementoes.  

The man who led the Turkish army at Gallipoli and later led Turkey as its first President, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in 1934 wrote a tribute to all the Allied soldiers who died at Gallipoli, including those from New Zealand and Australia.  You will hear that tribute later in this service.

This commemoration also pays tribute to all our service personnel of other conflicts, including those who fought alongside many of the countries represented here today, and those who fought here during the Second World War alongside our Filipino hosts. 

The young men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps could not have foreseen what their sacrifices would mean for New Zealanders and Australians all these years later. 

Gallipoli would come to be widely regarded as a key moment in our histories, one that contributed towards a growing sense of identity for these two very young countries. 

On this day we pay tribute to the human spirit in adversity, to service and to sacrifice in the pursuit of peace.  That is the Anzac spirit.  Australians and New Zealanders know that in times of crisis, we have acted together to defend freedom, our shared values and our common interests.  And we continue to do so, whether in places such as Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands or East Timor, or in saving lives after natural disasters in the Pacific Islands. 

Sharing Anzac Day means we New Zealanders look to our Australian friends in a spirit of mateship and shared sacrifice, just as our soldiers did during the First World War.  As New Zealander and Gallipoli veteran Fred Dill recalled many years later:

“We liked the Aussies… We looked out to the Aussies. Aussies and New Zealanders always stuck together, if they could.”

We are the richer today for this bond that unites our two countries so closely.  But it also came at a heavy price.  If the young men who perished at Gallipoli could not then know the historic significance of their deeds, then for so much of our own history we did not know the effect of those deeds on the men themselves.

This year marks 25 years since New Zealand author Maurice Shadbolt published a collection of first-hand accounts of the Gallipoli campaign. The New Zealand veterans who told their stories in Voices of Gallipoli were nearing the end of their lives when they were interviewed by Shadbolt in the early 1980s.  Yet, for the families of many of these men, this was the first time they had heard their harrowing accounts of battle on the Gallipoli peninsula.  The same elements recurred in many of the accounts.  Where we recall their bravery, many of the men remembered hunger, disease, fear even, the persistent flies and the stench of death.

Most of the young men interviewed by Shadbolt did not know what would face them when they embarked on their adventures overseas, far far from home.  Or the mark it would leave on their memories for the rest of their lives.

Veteran George Skerret said:

"I dreamt about the horror until long after Gallipoli. Occasionally I still dream about it. Yes, sometimes. But very seldom. Mostly it's gone away now. Mostly it's gone."

All of those men have now passed on and their nightmares have been put to rest. 

But today, we remember them.  We remember their bravery, their sacrifice, and the spirit of Anzac that stays with us to this day.  

Lest we forget.

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