Friday, 25 September 2015 12:59

Gallipoli Centenary


It was a privilege to be a representative of the people of South Australia at the centenary of Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula a few weeks ago.

The Gallipoli campaign, as we all know, was a disastrous campaign. One hundred years ago yesterday, Keith Murdoch's letter was written to then Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. I will just quickly quote from Keith Murdoch's letter. He said:

"It is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history. Your fears have been justified. I have not military knowledge to be able to say whether the enterprise ever had a chance of succeeding…"

Nearly 9,000 Australians died, nearly 3,000 New Zealanders died and over 21,000 British soldiers died.  There is an estimate that 10,000 French soldiers died, yet we had the privilege of visiting the French cemetery, where there were four ossuaries.  These ossuaries were a compound where bones were collected from soldiers.  In each of those ossuaries, there were an estimated 3,000 sets of bones, so there were 12,000 just in those ossuaries.  There were also around another 500 graves.  So, I think the figure of 10,000 French soldiers who died is quite wrong.  There were nearly 1,500 soldiers from India and 49 from Newfoundland.  A total of nearly 45,000 Australian allies died on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The need to never, ever forget, and to always remember is something that we as Members of Parliament emphasise at every ceremony we go to to remember our veterans.  I do so at every ANZAC Day and every other ceremony I have the privilege of going to as the Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs.  This opportunity was unique.  I hope that Members of Parliament will consider talking to the Members who went to Gallipoli about their experiences, look at the photographs and see what our troops were up against.  It was a very moving experience for all of us and one that will last my lifetime.

I would be happy to talk to people and various groups about the experience we had, and to show them pictures of where we went, to try and get them to understand the issues that our soldiers were facing.  The gallantry and courage that was shown is just typical of the young men and women in our military forces.  They were all men then, apart from the nurses that were there.

The trip with Sir Eric and Lady Neal was an extra bonus.  For me, as a veterinary surgeon, I was pleased we had a young lad who was a veterinary student there, Alex Hibbins.  Alex was representing Legacy in South Australia.  Alex's father, I understand, was in the Air Force and had died.  Alex was able to participate in the services with us.  I know that, speaking to Alex, it was a very moving experience and one which will last his lifetime.  I am sure he will be out there speaking, not only to Legacy, but to other groups about the experience.

There is a need, as I said, to continue to remember and to never forget.  I think we as Members of Parliament should consider sending a delegation over to the event at the Western Front next year.  I am looking forward to talking to the new Minister for Veterans' Affairs about what the Federal Government will be doing this time.  I hope we are not the only parliamentary representation there. 

I thank the good constituents of Morphett for having me as their representative to go on these sorts of experiences and represent the people of South Australia in a completely bipartisan way.  It was a wonderful experience to be there as Members of the Parliament—not as members of a party—and to undertake the whole experience and bring that experience back to our constituents.

I understand there are no survivors of this campaign left anywhere in the world.  There are continuing battles and warfare going on in the world today, and the injuries and mental health of our soldiers is something that we need to be aware of in this place.  This trip helps cement that attitude, not only with me, but I know with all the other members, including the Hon. Andrew McLachlan from the Legislative Council, who came with myself, the member for Taylor and the member for Florey.

It was an absolutely unforgettable experience.  I encourage Members to take the opportunity to visit the other Western Front sites next year and, as we all do, take every possible opportunity to remember our veterans.

French Military Cemetery Anzac Cove

French Military Cemetary                                           Anzac Cove

Read 4492 times Last modified on Friday, 25 September 2015 14:43

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