Major Matthew Vine, Second-in-Command of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, was guest speaker at the official Remembrance Day Service held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney. The service was attended by the Governor, Her Excellency, Marie Bashir; the Premier of New South Wales, The Hon Barry O’Farrell, the President of the RSL, Mr Don Rowe AM and representatives from the armed services, ex-service organisations, the consular corps and schools.
The 19th Century poet Tennyson wrote: ‘Theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do and die’.
When the call for volunteers went out a nation answered.
The nation was new and the nation was bold.
The people were toughened by the unforgiving land and forged in a bond of nationality.
The threat was not to them directly and indeed the call came from a land far away.
A land many had left and almost forgotten.
The young men of Australia answered the call in droves.
Young men who were sons, brothers, fathers and friends rallied to meet the national need.
Many travelled vast distances just to be considered.
Some lied about their age and managed to join aged just 15 years old.
All left behind their family, their friends and everything that meant anything to them.
They had no confirmed understanding of what lay ahead of them.
They knew not of the pain, the suffering, the loss and the sacrifice that was to come.
What they did know was duty, service, honor and, through their very being, mateship.
They were backed by a society and guided by politics that saw men as men, defenders of the weak and repellent of the tyranny that was in play.
And they came and they came.
So many came that the tests for entry had to be made more stringent.
The recruiting stations filled and the King’s shilling was taken.
Then it was to the boats and then it was to war.
And so, after a time at sea, a landing and more training it began.
The guns fired, the bullets flew and the gas wafted across fields and beaches and cliffs across the world.
And men died and died and died.
They died in their 100s their 1000s and their 10s of 1000s.
The sacrifice for freedom was required and the bill was paid in full.
Unknowingly 1000s of miles away, wives became widows, children became fatherless and parents lost their sons.
And a victorious nation mourned it’s loss.
From a population of fewer than 5 million, over 416,000 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.
Australia suffered the greatest loss, per capita, of any country involved in the Great War.
This was supposed to have been the war that ended wars. It did not.
The heralded threat of aggressors through the 20th Century came from many theatres around the world.
Each instance presented a requirement for Australian service men and women to act as the extension of politics and meet the need.
And each time the need was met.
The call still goes out for citizens to join and the call is answered.
But it is answered now with the full knowledge of what lies ahead.
Through the media we as Australians are made aware of the dangers of life in the ADF.
We know within hours when one of our own has fallen in the line of duty.
Soon after we are informed of how they fell and then we are told their name.
And it is current and it is accurate and it is real.
Regardless, the young men and women answer the call to represent Australia in the fight against oppression, tyranny and evil.
To give hope to those without hope and to help those who cannot help themselves.
And there is no doubt they will continue to do so.
There has always been and will always remain the cost of those who die or are wounded.
There will ever be tears in the eyes of those whose loved ones pay the ultimate price or return a different person.
There has never been a war without sacrifice or loss.
The 3rd Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment has conducted such service form Sydney for over two decades.
On the 9th of December we will lower the flag for the last time and move to Townsville to continue our work.
Regardless of where we are in Australia or indeed the world we will honor those who left a legacy for all of us.
We will mourn the dead as that is all we can do.
And we will remember them. Lest we forget.
Major Matthew Vine
The Royal Australian Regiment