Australian High Commission
New Delhi
India, Bhutan

High Commissioner Philip Green's ANZAC Day Speech


                                                                                          High Commissioner Philip Green's ANZAC Day Speech

(check against delivery)                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thursday, 25 April 2024

On this most sacred day for New Zealanders and Australians, we rise early.  We make our way to the cenotaph before dawn.  And we pay tribute to our war dead, as the sun’s rays begin to breach the horizon.  

We remember the first ANZACs who, 109 years ago, huddling in their landing boats, also anticipated the dawn; and, unknowingly,  awaited a fate that has become our countries’ most animating epic.  

By the end of the Gallipoli campaign, 11,000 Australians and New Zealanders lay dead in the fields of western Türkiye.  Tens of thousands of others perished with them - Turks,, British, French, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis, South Africans, Canadians and Sri Lankans.

All suffered gravely.  But for the young nations of Australia and New Zealand - so distant from the conflict’s origins - the losses were asymmetrically massive.  Nearly one in every five Australian or New Zealand soldier did not return from the battlefields of World War I. 

We pay tribute to their sacrifice.  We mourn their loss.  And we re-dedicate ourselves to a world where young women and men never again have to lay down their lives for their nations.  

We remember not only those New Zealanders and Australians who fell in the carnage of World War I.  But all those who have fallen from all nations, in all conflicts.  

We commemorate with our allies at Gallipoli - the gallant  French, British, Indians, Pakistanis, South Africans, Canadians and Sri Lankans.  

But we commemorate too with our enemies then, our dear friends now, the Turks and Germans. The fire of Gallipoli has forged a special bond with the people of Türkiye, never better articulated than in the moving words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  

Uniquely, we remember our war dead not in recognition of a victory, but of a defeat - a catastrophic one.

A defeat that stirred something in our people that is now at the core of the modern nations of Australia and New Zealand.  Something distinctive, sovereign and mature.  

For us Australians, we commemorate in brotherhood with the closest of our mates, the Kiwis.  And we remind ourselves of the unshakable bonds between our peoples - shaped by history, linked by language and culture, and bound together in destiny.  

Though Kiwis and Aussies are known as among the world’s most informal and relaxed of peoples, we perform on this day - exceptionally - an act of serial ritual.  The dedication.  The ode.  The laying of wreaths.  The Last Post.  The Reveille.  The poppies or rosemary.  The Gunfire Breakfast. 

We engage our young, like Isla, who just read Beach Burial, and initiate them into the ritual of ANZAC - as we demand that they never experience the horrors of the “sob and clubbing of gunfire” or the “blue of drowned men’s lips”.   

And, while ANZAC Day is owned by all New Zealanders and Australians, we honour in particular those who serve in uniform, led today by Commodore Scully-O’Shea and his Australian and New Zealand Defence colleagues across the globe who carry on a great tradition of military professionalism, service and valour.  

We recall the toll of war in numbers that are beyond reckoning.   But as we count the cost of multiple lives, we also seek to count the cost of each one.  This morning, as we look to our left and right and see the mass of graves, we would do well to wonder how many of these women and men would have become community leaders, doctors, teachers, nurses, musicians, best friends, lovers and partners, fathers and mothers.  And, thinking of their families, their friends and their communities, each single death is a multiple of tragedies.  

Today in 2024, we experience ANZAC Day in a world where war appears more present in our lives.  

Conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza dominate the news, while other battles - in Myanmar, the Congo, and the Sahel - go less reported but are equally ruinous to people’s lives.  

In the region that binds many of us together, the Indo Pacific, we know that as this ANZAC Day unfolds,  we are experiencing the fastest military build-up in our region since the Second World War.  We eye warily the trends that could engulf us again in catastrophe - and strive for the best, as we prepare for the worst. 

Here in India, we are warranted to pause and reflect upon those who perished in the Gallipoli campaign from this sub-continent.  

Indeed, it is not just warranted.  It is obligatory.  The huge roles played by Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans in World War I have too often been omitted from popular histories, or relegated to the footnotes.  

So let’s recall that nearly 700,000 sepoys fought in Mesopotamia; that it was Indian jawans who stopped the German advance at Ypres; and that, at Gallipoli, thousands of Indian soldiers were among those  who first suffered the horrors of the trenches.   Casualties were massive - in just one battle in June 1915 (the 3rd Battle of Krithia), more than 80 per cent of the Battalion’s strength was on the casualty list;

And let’s hear the words of some of those individuals, too often not heard, but available to us in the historical record, if we care to look …

Describing a fierce night battle in May 1915, Sepoy Nanak Singh of the 69th Punjabis recalled  “The night was pitch dark and the sounds of the bullets and shells were ringing in the men’s ears as they whizzed past overhead  …. we realised that we were walking over the dead bodies of Sikh troops, with turbans all over the place.  We took care not to step over the turbans.  It was a very touching moment for us and I cannot forget that moment”.

An unknown Indian soldier wrote home to family. "The shells are pouring like rain in the monsoon,".

And another whose name we do know, Havildar Rahman, recounted that "The corpses cover the country, like sheaves of harvested corn,". 

A dispatch describing the 14th Sikhs, from General Sir Ian Hamilton, the General Officer Commanding the whole Gallipoli operation, captures the Indian warrior spirit: “In the highest sense of the word, extreme gallantry has been shown by this fine Battalion. In spite of tremendous losses, there was not a sigh of wavering all day.  Not an inch of ground gained was given up and not a single straggler came back.”

In total, around 16,000 Indian Army soldiers, a force comprising Hindus, Gurkhas, Sikhs and Muslims, served in the Gallipoli Campaign.  Tragically, one in ten fell in combat.   

Turks, British, French, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis, South Africans, Canadians  Sri Lankans… New Zealanders and Australians… All bound together in tragedy.  

How are we to remember them?  

The great Australian chronicler of World War I, Charles Bean, offers us a thoughtful perspective on the Australian contingent. He writes “They are not heroes.  They did not intend to be thought or spoken of as heroes.  They are just ordinary Australians, doing their particular work as their country would wish them to do it.  And pray God, Australians in days to come will be worthy of them.”

Lest we forget.