Remembrance Day in national park

1785
Remembrance Day is special to Yanchep resident Esme Kent and she intends to be at the service in Yanchep National Park. Picture: Anita McInnes

ESME Kent says she will be at the Yanchep Two Rocks RSL Remembrance Day service on Friday, November 11.

Mrs Kent of Yanchep said Remembrance Day and Anzac Day were special to the couple as she, her husband and her father all served in the services.

Yanchep Two Rocks RSL president Joyce Harris said the service to be held at the Yanchep National Park Memorial would start at 10.45am.

She said there was free entry to the national park for anyone attending the service.

Students form Yanchep District High School and Yanchep Beach and Two Rocks primary schools will join dignitaries to lay wreathes including a wreath for indigenous men and women, who have served their country.

Australians observe one minute of silence at 11am on November 11 each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts.

RSLWA media and marketing manager John Arthur compiled the following speech notes as a guide for services.

Today we pause in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

We remember that at 11 o’clock on November 11, 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years’ continuous warfare.

The Allied armies had driven the German invaders back, having inflicted heavy defeats upon them over the preceding four months. The Germans called for an armistice to secure a peace settlement. They accepted allied terms that amounted to unconditional surrender. The First World War brought about the mobilisation of more than 70 million people and left between 9 and 13 million dead, perhaps as many as one-third of them with no known grave.

The Allies chose this day and time for the commemoration of their war dead.

The tradition of honouring all who died and suffered began in 1919 after it was proposed by an Australian journalist, Edward Honey, who was working in Fleet Street.

At about the same time, a South African statesman made a similar proposal to the British Cabinet, which endorsed it.

The commemorations were known as Armistice Day.

However, after the Second World War, the Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day as it was considered Armistice Day was no longer an appropriate title for a day which commemorated all war dead.

In Australia on the 75th anniversary in 1993, Remembrance Day ceremonies again became the focus of national attention.

The remains of an unknown Australian soldier, exhumed from a First World War military cemetery in France, were ceremonially entombed in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Memory.

Remembrance Day ceremonies were conducted simultaneously in towns and cities all over the country, culminating at the moment of burial at 11 am and coinciding with the traditional two minutes’ silence.

This ceremony, which touched a chord across the Australian nation, reestablished Remembrance Day as a significant day of commemoration.

Four years later, in 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring November 11 to be Remembrance Day, urging all Australians to observe one minute’s silence at 11 am on November 11 each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts.

The silence at the Western Front 98 years ago also reminds us that, while the war had officially come to an end, the suffering didn’t. In this year alone, anniversaries fall for many conflicts: 2016 is the centenary of the battles of Pozieres, Mouquet Farm and Fromelles on the Western Front; the centenary of battles of Romani in Egypt and Magdhaba in the Sinai Desert.

It is also the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan – now known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Australia has always stood tall in supporting its friends and the cost has been extreme: More than 100,000 men and women have given their lives fighting for their country.

We remember them and all those who have died or suffered in wars, including the families of those military personnel who have suffered and taken those own lives.

It is appalling that this year more soldiers have taken their lives than died in the entire 13-year Afghanistan conflict.

I know that the RSL, as the biggest ex-service organisation in Western Australia, as well as other ex-service organisations believe younger veterans from the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor need to be guaranteed better treatment outcomes and opportunities through improved rehabilitation.

Clearly conventional wars are fought with different rules.

Our troops go overseas and are confronted by apparently ordinary citizens, sometimes children, armed with explosives.

They risk death via hidden explosive devices and random attacks.

The enemy is not always easily identified.

The pressures of modern warfare mean we as a nation must be more understanding and aware of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

There is clearly a need for improved advocacy and welfare systems and I am pleased that the RSL has not only moved to upgrade its advocacy and welfare support but is also actively pursuing a policy of bringing other ex-service organisations together to forge a new cooperative focus to help those in need.

In July this year RSLWA launched RSL DefenceCare in Western Australia to give veterans and serving personnel greater advocacy and welfare support as a vital backup to the hundreds of volunteer welfare and advocacy offers throughout the state.

While the World War I was not the war that ended all wars – as our predecessors had hoped – perhaps soon our veterans can be given the best treatment possible, whether physically or psychologically damaged.

We cannot, as a nation, afford to have dozens or young men and women taking their own lives because of the silent hell they endure.