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Sunday, 11 November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18). Isabella (Year 11) gave this speech at a special Remembrance Day Assembly this week.
“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.” These are the solemn words of United States Congressman Dan Lipinski.
One hundred years ago, on the 11th of November 1918, the German leaders signed an Armistice which would end four years of brutal, bloody conflict. The newfound silence on the Western Front brought a semblance of peace worldwide, whilst the loss of a generation of valiant men and women would have profound consequences. More than 330, 000 Australians had served in the Great War, serving at the forefront of Allied Victory at the Battle of Hamel, and the breach of the Hindenburg Line in September 1918. Yet, of these 330,000 Australians, almost 62,000 of them were killed. Sadly they didn’t return home to their loved ones. Yet, their honourable sacrifice in the name of freedom and peace would transcend time and their memory would endure like the eternal flame. One hundred years on, it is our duty to RESPECT and REMEMBER THEM.
The Unknown Soldier has no name, date of birth or age and has no rank. Yet strangely we do know him. And where war itself is bereft of dignity, HE is dignified. HE is eternal. Whilst our lifestyle is defined by an abundance of light, it is he who fought in the darkness of the trenches so that this light could reach us. A light of freedom and hope, of bravery and courage. Let us not forget the pain and suffering of the past. But let us not dwell on the doom and gloom of war. For what came of this Great War was a lesson – he who taught us to endure hardship, to show courage, to be resilient, to be brave, was not just an ordinary person. He was someone who was willing to put himself at risk for the greater benefit of society. Service above self.
For many, it was hard to accept the fate of those who went to war. Imagine having your husband, your son, your father or your best friend by your side one day and the next day, they were boarding a ship, departing for the battlegrounds of Europe, not knowing when or if they would ever return to the nation they were fighting so hard to protect. Many at home lived every day in fear of the arrival of the telegram that would inform them of their loved one’s death. Similarly, the soldiers felt like every day was their last, with the prospect of leaving their families behind at the forefront of their concerns. Private Albert Ford wrote to his wife, Edith, on a scrap piece of paper before going ‘over the top’.
"My darling if this should ever reach you it will be a sure sign that I am gone under and what will become of you and the chicks I do not know but there is one above that will see to you and not let you starve…Dear heart, do think sometimes of me in the future when your grief has worn a bit, and the older children, I know won't forget me …I should not have left you thus bringing suffering and poverty on a loving wife and children for which in time I hope you will forgive me…So dear heart…know that my last thoughts were of you in the dugout or on the fire step my thoughts went out to you, the only one I ever loved, the one that made a man of me."
This was the last that Edith would hear from her husband. Yet, the importance of telling such a story is not to invoke pity, but instead, to remember and honour the brave, self-sacrificing Unknown Soldier. As Homer elucidated of a dying soldier in The Odyssey, “Remember me. Remember me. Heap my mound by the churning grey surf. So even men to come will learn my story.”
Lest we forget.
Isabella (Year 11)