Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

ANZAC Day Commemorative Service and Wreath Laying

25 April 2016

Hobart Cenotaph

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land.
I acknowledge the Lord Mayor of Hobart, and members of Federal, State and Local Government.
Mr Rob Dick, President RSL Tasmania Branch.
Members of the Greek delegation led by Lieutenant General Gkatzogiannis.
Senior officers and members of the Australian Defence Force
Veterans, ex-serving men and women and their families.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.
 
Today we remember and commemorate the first ANZACs, and all Australians who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations since.
We pay gratitude for their sacrifices and actions that have defined and protected what it means to be Australian.
We remember their families. Parents, partners and children, who’ve suffered at home while their loved ones fight for our country in foreign lands. 
Last year, on a very special ANZAC Day, we came together to mark 100 years since our troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli Peninsula.
A nation defining event where, according to Australian War Historian, Charles Bean, ‘Australians watched the name of their country rise high in the esteem of the world’s oldest and greatest nations.’
 
But on ANZAC Day we also remember the valiant service of Australians in the other campaigns of World War 1, and on the battlefields of World War II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq, Timor and Afghanistan.
 
This year, we particularly commemorate 100 years since the Battle of Pozièresand Fromelles, the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front.              
As the Australian War Memorial records: on 19 July 1916 the Australians attacked at Fromelles, with disastrous results. The Australians suffered a shocking 5,500 casualties – their greatest losses in a single day. It was a harsh lesson about the scale and intensity of warfare on the Western Front.
Four days later, Australians went into action on the Somme, attacking and capturing Pozières.
Under heavy bombardment, casualties grew over the next few weeks, eventually totalling 23,000.
 
Every campaign in which we have been involved is filled with countless stories of astounding bravery and sacrifice; today I will highlight the feats of two extraordinary Australians.
Their service separated by a hundred years, but connected by remarkable selflessness, bravery, and comradeship.
One who fought at Pozières
The second, a century later in Afghanistan.
Both were Victoria Cross recipients.
Both were Tasmanian.
Both volunteered to defend their country and our way of life.
 
Sergeant John Whittle was born in 1883 on Huon Island, in our state’s South.
Corporal Cameron Baird was born in 1981 in Burnie, in our state’s North-West.
John Whittle swore allegiance to the King and was just 17-years-old when he first served in South Africa, fighting the Anglo-Boer War.
Almost a hundred years later, Cameron Baird swore allegiance to our Country and was 19 when he was sent to East Timor as part of the TANAGER operation.
 
In April 1917, as part of the Australian Imperial Force, Sergeant Whittle was in command of a post near Boursies, France; under heavy shellfire attack from German forces.
Under the cover of darkness the Germans entered a small trench occupied by Whittle and his men.
Leading a daring counter attack, Whittle rallied his men and charged the enemy to regain their position.
Later, and with his platoon suffering heavy casualties, Whittle spotted the enemy positioning a machine gun.
As the London Gazette reported: “Grasping the situation, he rushed alone across the fire-swept ground and attacked the hostile gun crew with bombs before the gun could be got into action. He succeeded in killing the whole crew and bringing back the machine gun to our position.”
Sergeant John Whittle was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace in July 1917.
Wounded three times he survived to return to Australia and died of natural causes aged 62.
His actions and those of every Australian and New Zealand soldier who served during WWI, would define our country, through the spirit of ANZAC.
 
Ninety-eight years later, in that same spirit of ANZAC Corporal Cameron Baird made the ultimate sacrifice.
In June 2013, Corporal Baird’s team was engaged by small arms fire from several enemy positions during an attack on an insurgent network in Afghanistan.
Corporal Baird led his team to neutralise the positions, killing six enemy combatants.
Soon after, an adjacent Special Operations Task Group team came under heavy enemy fire, and their commander was seriously wounded.
Without hesitation, Corporal Baird led his team to provide support.  En route, they were engaged by rifle and machine gun fire.
On three separate occasions Corporal Baird charged an enemy held building. On the third time, he selflessly drew enemy fire away from his team. The enemy was neutralised and the advantage was regained, but Corporal Baird was killed in the effort.
In February 2014, Corporal Baird was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.
The Defence Force said Corporal Baird “died how he lived – at the front, giving it his all, without any indecision. He will be forever remembered by his mates and the soldiers he served.”
 
A century turned between their wars, the enemy changed and so did the battlefield and means of warfare.
What didn’t change was the ANZAC spirit.
Beating strong in the heart of both men was a resolve to defend Australia and our way of life, and to put their mates and their country ahead of themselves.
Despite time’s many changes, the ANZAC spirit has endured, and it will prevail for generations to come.
I believe that it is appropriate and important that on ANZAC Day, and indeed throughout the year we observe and give thanks to people like John Whittle and Cameron Baird - and the hundreds of thousands who have served our nation at time of war.
Not to glorify war, but to commemorate those brave souls who were part of it a hundred years ago, and to remember those who are there today.
We honour their service, their courage and their sacrifice, and that of their families.
We are the great country we are today because of the ANZAC spirit they continue to inspire.
Lest we forget.