This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War. The so-called Great War was to be the ‘war that ended all wars’. Sadly this has not been the case and so each year, on the 11th hour of the 11th month we remember the human sacrifices made in the Great War and in conflicts since.
The Great War remains our most costly conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million (less than today’s Sydney) 416,809 men enlisted. More than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. At least 11,033 NSW Government employees were granted military leave, with 1,659 killed in action.
Ten NSW Parliamentarians served in the Great War while a further 75 former or future MPs also served. One of them, William Currey, won the Victoria Cross on the battlefields of France after capturing a 77mm field gun and an enemy strong point before playing a key role in rescuing a company of allied soldiers that had become isolated. In 1941 he became the Member for Kogarah, thereby becoming the first VC winner to serve in the NSW Parliament.
Across the country Australians are encouraged to mark the Centenary of the Armistice and observe one minute’s silence at 11am in memory of those who died or suffered in the First World War and all wars and armed conflicts since.
This year, the state Remembrance Day Service will be held at the recently refurbished Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. It will be followed by an Open Day where you can experience the new water cascade and Hall of Service which acknowledges the 1,701 locations NSW Great War enlistees gave as their home address. The new Hall also features 100 sites of military significance to NSW service personnel, to honour more than a century of Australian service and sacrifice in peacekeeping and conflict.
Many who have enlisted never returned, while others have carried life-long injuries in defence of our country and the freedoms we enjoy. None of our First World War diggers are with us today, but their stories of courage in adversity live on through their families and recorded history.
I encourage community members to attend a local remembrance service. Lest we forget.