They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. Laurence Binyon (1914)
We recently took an impromptu trip to Canberra, Australia’s capital city. While most other major Australian cities evolved higgledy-piggledy around ports, Canberra is a city by design.
Once endless paddocks, it was planned and designed by Walter Burley Griffin in collaboration with his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, also an architect.
One of Canberra’s drawcards is the fabulous wineries a short drive out of the city. But our first stop is the Australian War Memorial.
We will remember them…
During World War I, 60,000 Australian soldiers died. They were all volunteers. In a population of just four million, it was a war that touched every family and every town – and changed Australia forever.
What isn’t as well known is that, in the decade that followed, another 60,000 returned soldiers died from war-related illness, injury and post-traumatic stress.
Every year, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month all over Australia – on streets, in shopping centres, at businesses and schools, at train stations and airports – an eerie silence descends as we all stop where we are for one minute.
EB and I are sitting on Cabarita beach today and EB finds the Last Post on his phone. The haunting tones mingle with the crashing waves and the call of a lone seagull gliding past…
After our visit to the Australian War Memorial, the faces are fresh in our minds… of those who served and died in that terrible ‘war to end all wars’ and in all conflicts and peacekeeping operations since then.
It’s 95 years since the armistice on 11 November that ended the First World War (1914-18). It is also the 20th anniversary of the reinternment of the Unknown Australian Soldier in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Memory.
Today his eulogy, first delivered by Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1993, will be read at the setting of the sun outside the Memorial.
“It is not too much to hope…that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his country – he might enshrine a nation’s love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.”
When you consider the lives lost in war – those who fight in it and those who are caught up in it just because they live there – it makes you wonder about the madness of the human species…
So perhaps the last words should go to Confucius: “Study the past if you would define the future.”