ANZAC DAY: The unknown soldier
|The tomb of the Unknown Soldier, National War Memorial, Canberra (all photography by Joluise)|
excerpt from the Remembrance Day speech at the funeral service of the unknown Australian soldier by The Hon. P. J. Keating MP (formal Prime Minister of Australia) (link to full speech)11 November 1993
We do not know this Australian's name and we never will.
We do not know his rank or his battalion.
We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died.
We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe.
We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single.
We do not know who loved him or whom he loved.
If he had children we do not know who they are.
His family is lost to us as he was lost to them.
We will never know who this Australian was.
Yet he has always been among those whom we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century.
He is all of them. And he is one of us. . .
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia. His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained. We have lost more than 100,000 lives, and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy.
We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and, with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore, 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.
|The eternal flame at the National War Memorial in Canberra|