On an appropriately gloomy Canberra day, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs made the national address at the Australian War Memorial Anzac Day Ceremony today.
He spoke of what was arguably the nation’s darkest year, 1942, 75 years on and the impact the Second World War had on the entire nation.
Vice Admiral Griggs was joined by other dignitaries, including the New Zealand High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Chris Seed, as well as the Honourable Barnaby Joyce MP, representing the Prime Minister of Australia.
Before the the march, the didgeridoo was played by Warlpiri man Leading Aircraftman Brodie McIntyre of RAAF Base Tindal.
The address included excerpts from Australia’s Prime Minister at the time, John Curtin.
Vice Admiral Griggs spoke of how Prime Minister Curtin had warned in 1941 of the supreme tests that Australia would face in the coming year.
“Evoking the poetry of Bernard O’Dowd, Curtin foreshadowed the arrival of war on Australia’s doorstep and posited whether 1942 would bring either ‘disaster’ or a new ‘dawn’,” he said.
“The year started with Britain facing its own ‘darkest hour’ in the fight against Nazi Germany, just as Japanese forces were sweeping across Asia, with Hong Kong and the Malay Peninsula falling quickly.”
Earlier in the day at the Australian War Memorial’s Dawn Service, Sapper Curtis McGrath gave the Commemorative Address, where he spoke briefly of his own experiences in war to reflect the past with current-day operations.
More than 30,000 people attended the Dawn Service with numbers down at the march due to the inclement weather.
In his speech at the National Ceremony, Vice Admiral Griggs also spoke of the different battles directly involving Australian service personnel.
He referred to the Battle of the Coral Sea in quoting Curtin again, where he said that for many involved in the great naval battle proceeding in the south-west Pacific zone, it may be for many of them the last full measure of their devotion.
“The largest naval battle ever fought so close to home was a tactical loss, but a strategic victory lay in the loss of life and wreckage of aircraft and ships.
“It was the first time the Japanese had been halted during their southwards advance in the Pacific,” he said.
Vice Admiral Griggs concluded his address noting that although it is often recognised that Australia as a nation came of age at Gallipoli 102 years ago, that the actions of 75 years ago unified the country like no other; a year where the ‘war effort’ became a national imperative.
“It was a year in which conflict came to our doorstep, and a year in which our future Alliance with the United States was forged.
“The fight has always involved great sacrifice and we have not always prevailed, but, our troops have always fought in a way that warrants our gratitude, our respect and more importantly, thoughtful reflection,” he said.
“That’s why we gather here, every year, from dawn and throughout the day.
“That’s why we must remember them, always.”