Anzac Day Dawn Service Commemorative Address - Australian War Memorial, Canberra

25 April 2024

Vice Admiral David Johnston AC RAN: It is a privilege to stand with you on this Anzac Day, together with the members of the Australian Defence Force who serve with such great pride and dedication. 

Our personnel serve around Australia and around the world.

And eight decades ago, with the world at war, two young Australians served as far from home as you can imagine, at the top of the northern hemisphere, in Norway. 

Jack Breed was from Perth in Western Australia and Hugh Kilday was from Yarragon in Victoria.

Both were born to fly. 

They served with 196 Squadron, part of the Royal Air Force’s Transport Command.

They took part in major airborne operations and flew clandestine missions supporting resistance movements in Europe.

They served alongside airmen from Britain, New Zealand and Canada, and today we honour the service personnel of all nations who fought and died alongside the Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

79 years ago, on a mission to disarm German troops, Flight Lieutenant Jack Breed and his entire crew, including Warrant Officer Hugh Kilday and 14 British paratroopers were killed when their Stirling bomber crashed outside Oslo.

They died just two days after the War in Europe came to an end. 

Some years ago, I walked through the snow and laid a wreath at the graves of these two young airmen.

They lie a long way from home, but they are near in our memory today.

Their names are inscribed on the Roll of Honour, alongside 103,000 Australians who have laid down their lives in the service of our nation.

It is in this darkness before the dawn that we are closest to the soldiers of the first Australian Imperial Force who spent their dawn, 109 years ago, crouched in small boats off the shores of Gallipoli.

Bugler Fred Ashton was still 120 metres offshore when he heard the first shot ring out.

Lance Corporal George Mitchell later wrote in his diary: “Fierce we expected it to be, but fierce as it was, we never dreamed.”

Over 620 Australians would die before the sun set.

This Anzac Day we reflect on the stories of courage, service and sacrifice that stretch from Gallipoli to today.

In June, it will be 55 years since Private Wayne Teeling 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, was killed during the Battle of Binh Ba in Vietnam.

Private Teeling was survived by his wife Carolyn and his son, who was born after his father’s death.

In October, we will mark 80 years since the Battle for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

HMAS Australia had just weighed anchor, making ready to provide fire support for the Americans ashore, when she was hit by a Japanese aircraft. 

30 Australian naval personnel were killed or died of wounds.

Though mortally injured, burnt and bleeding, Captain Emile Dechaineux’s thoughts were only for his wounded crew. 

The account from his shipmates indicates “… he was asking all the time whether … those that were injured were being looked after … That’s all he was interested in …” until he died later that day.

We know how many Australians have died in the service of our country.

But we don’t know how many grieve each Anzac Day - how many are grieving among us today - the loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, a relative, a friend.

I ask you all to hold in your hearts those who mourn on Anzac Day.

And remember those whose service left them wounded in body, mind or spirit.

Australians have fought in two World Wars.

Our forces have served in the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation and the Vietnam War; in the Middle East, and in our longest war, Afghanistan. 

We’ve had peacekeepers in the field with the United Nations since 1947 and they are in the field today. 

A straight line runs from all of them to all of us.

Their sacrifice allowed us to build the nation we are today; and their service protects the nation we are building for tomorrow.

Whether our people are serving at home or deployed, or completed their service, they are all veterans to whom we owe so much. We give thanks for their willingness to defend and protect Australia.

Acknowledging that for some, their service came at an enduring mental and physical cost. 

It is our families and loved ones who are also impacted by our service - who also sacrifice; and their continuing and unwavering support to us is so vital and so valued.

On Defence sites around the nation, you will find signs inscribed with five words: Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence.

They are our values and our watchwords, and they draw from the example and the sacrifice of those who gave their tomorrows for our today.

Every day, the members of the Australian Defence Force walk in the footsteps of those who fought and died for Australia.

And every day the people of Australia live in peace, as citizens of a nation that is one and free because of that sacrifice.

We have much to be grateful for, and much to live up to, as we walk into dawn’s new light together. 

Lest we forget. 

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