Remembrance Day service in Yanchep

Kelmscott Pinjarra 10th Light Horse Memorial Group president Phil Dennis and drill sergeant Catherine Forbes with their retired pacers Indi and Von Roy at Yanchep National Park for Remembrance Day. Picture: Anita McInnes

REMEMBRANCE Day this year marked the commemoration of the 103rd anniversary of the official end – the signing of an armistice at 11 o’clock on November 11, 1918 – of what will always be remembered as the most horrific war of the 20th century.

At the Remembrance Day service at Yanchep National Park last Thursday Yanchep Two Rocks RSL president Bill Jones said Remembrance Day was originally widely referred to as Armistice Day as it then commemorated just the end of hostilities for World War I.

“On the first anniversary of that day, 11/11/1919 the observance of a period of silence was instituted as a part of all future ceremonies,’’ he said.

“As we were to learn, peace is a very fragile thing and World War II commenced not much more than 20 years later.

“After the end of that second world war in late 1945, the British and Australian governments changed the name to “Remembrance Day” as being a more appropriate title to commemorate all war dead from all conflicts.

“We stop and observe a moment of thought and respect for all of those who served and suffered.

“Remembering we Australians and our close allies the New Zealanders, who cemented the name “ANZAC” in the course of history for ever.

“Also those of the many other allied forces who took part.

“I should also mention another very rarely spoken of group of people we should stop to think of – that being the untold number of civilian casualties who will always become the innocent collateral damage in times of conflict.

“Indeed in this day and age we tend very much to spare a thought also for those who were regarded as being the enemy at that time and who in the majority of specific cases suffered many more dead and wounded (than) the allies did.

Students at the Remembrance Day service in Yanchep National Park. Picture: Anita McInnes

“As we are all aware, the tide of war started to turn in favour of the allies early in 1918 thankfully eventually resulting in war’s end on this day exactly 103 years ago.

“None of the brave men and women of World War I, many who regarded such conflicts as being a bit of an adventure in those days, are still with us today.

“Including those who managed to survive, putting it all aside, upon returning and living out their lives at home.

“They all helped to establish the ongoing traditions of courage, mateship, compassion for others and the resolve to never give up when there was distasteful work to be done.

“Something we all should still strive to achieve, not just our current military forces, but those in society in general.

“The most enduring symbol of Remembrance Day is of course the red Flanders poppy.

“In the horrific hell holes of the Western Front areas of France and Belgium, poppies were among the very first flowering plants to spring to life as the constant artillery shelling and troop movements slowed.

“A myth arose whereby people believed that the flowering poppies were so richly red in colour due to having blossomed from soil which had been saturated with soldiers’ blood.  “Myth or not, it is indeed ironic that some of the best ever annual flowerings occurred immediately after World War I.

“On days such as today, we pause for a moment to reflect upon the casualties on both sides of the conflicts which have taken place over the years, both military and civilian.

“Let us also never forget the animals especially all of those who served alongside the humans.

“They who could never question such things and simply obeyed in carrying out the tasks they were assigned to, quite often in horrific conditions.

“In World War I more than 16 million animals served.

“An estimated nine million of them gave up their lives.

“Animals through the years were mainly used in transport, communication, gas and explosives detection, tracking and also just companionship as pets and unit mascots.

“The purple poppies we see around the time of Remembrance Day are to commemorate all of those animals who have served during war and peacekeeping operations.

Anne Purdy of Yanchep and Yanchep National Park ranger Pip Carboon at the Remembrance Day service. Picture: Fiona Williams

We remember those of the several other conflicts since – the major ones being Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“World War I will sadly always stand as being the most costly to Australia in the way of casualties – the country then only with an overall population of  about five million, had 416,809 or nearly 1/10th of the population who enlisted in the military.

“More than 62,000 were killed and about 300,000 wounded, gassed, suffered shell-shock, (today known as PTSD), disease or were taken prisoner.

“(The figure for wounding was so high due to the number who suffered wounds on several occasions).

“In World War II the total figures were 27,073 killed and 23,477 wounded.

“Korea resulted in 340 killed and 1216 wounded.

“Vietnam, our numerically seconded longest conflict after Afghanistan, eventually resulted in 521 killed and 3000 plus wounded.

“More than 100 Australians have made the supreme sacrifice during the various conflicts and peacekeeping missions since Vietnam.

“Sadly, also we have a particularly high number of generally male ex-service members who have committed suicide post discharge as a direct result of their military service.

“In summary, it is very fair to repeat an adage well known in military circles, being the quote that ‘freedom is never free, it has always been paid for with the lives of serving men and women’.