Valley Veterans | On Remembrance Day 2019, we will remember them

Last year hundreds of Nambucca Valley residents congregated in Macksville to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice. It was a solemn and fitting ceremony where we collectively demonstrated that we will not forget the sacrifices that this young nation made during the Great War, the war that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

Unidentified Australian soldiers in front of a memorial in a cemetery where eighty-one French and German soldiers, who fell in battle on August 23, 1914, lie buried. Photo: courtesy Australian War Memorial

Unidentified Australian soldiers in front of a memorial in a cemetery where eighty-one French and German soldiers, who fell in battle on August 23, 1914, lie buried. Photo: courtesy Australian War Memorial

Although last year was the centenary, why do we and many other countries observe this commemoration activity every year?

Why is it so important to remember when the guns finally fell silent at 11AM on November 11, 1918?

World War I had cost the human race between 9-13 million dead and had mobilised over 70 million people.

The Armistice was declared on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month by allied nations deciding this would be the day that the disgraceful loss of life would be remembered and perhaps it would serve as a reminder of the futility of war and its terrible cost in life. We know that the human race did not learn from this lesson.

Following the end of World War II what was known as Armistice Day was renamed, in Australia and the UK at least, to Remembrance Day and became a day where we remember the dead from all wars.

A symbolic gesture in France and England on the first anniversary of the Armistice was to inter an unknown soldier from the Western Front in Paris at the Arc de Triumph and at Westminster Abbey in London. This unknown soldier was to represent all those who perished in this war. In 1993, the 75th Anniversary of the Armistice, Australia would finally follow the example set 74 years earlier and the remains of an unknown Australian Soldier was exhumed form the Western Front and interred at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

This act reinvigorated a desire in Australians to observe Remembrance Day and now schools and workplaces, in addition to formal commemoration services, observe a minutes silence at this time each year. It was actually Edward George Honey, Australian Journalist who was working in London during 1919 that first proposed the period of silence as an act of reflective respect on this day.

Aleppo, Syria, November 11, 1941. For the first time Since World War I, French, Syrian, British and Australian Troops took part in The Armistice Day Observance. Photo: courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Aleppo, Syria, November 11, 1941. For the first time Since World War I, French, Syrian, British and Australian Troops took part in The Armistice Day Observance. Photo: courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

During the Centenary of the Armistice last year I think we saw a slight change in our observations on Remembrance Day that will stay with us into the future as we gave a deeper level of consideration to the sacrifices made here at home during the great war.

The impact on of the Great War here on the Mid North Coast, as in other areas around the country was significant. The suffering of families who lost their sons, brothers and fathers, and some families lost several members in battle, must not be forgotten.

Those who did it hard due to resource shortages and those families who had to make do without their breadwinner must not be forgotten. And the living hell caused by the wounds of many of those that did return must not be forgotten.

In your town this Remembrance Day, wherever you are, pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and remember them. Lest we Forget.

  • Remembrance Day Service in Nambucca Heads will at the Cenotaph at 10:45AM, in Bowraville it will be at 10:45AM at the Bowraville Ex-Service Club, in Macksville it will be 10:45AM at the Cenotaph, Stuarts Point will be 11AM at the memorial and Taylors Arms, 10:45AM at the cenotaph.

A Distinguished Service Cross recipient, Mick Birtles DSC served 36 years in the Australian Army. Now retired, Mick lives in Nambucca and writes about veterans affairs in the community.