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  1. I have the honour of presenting the ANZAC address this coming Thursday at the 11am service, Brighton. I am attaching a copy of my address in the event you wish to draw on it..thank you…reg Watson
    25th April 2019
    Reg. A. Watson
    I knew a hero once; Don died some years ago. He was in his 90s. Over my career I have known many such men. Don was at the Battle El Alamein. Every year I had the honour to give the Address at that service and every year he would request a copy of what I had said. Don spent a long time at war, from 1939 until the end of the war in the Pacific in 1945. He served not only in North Africa, at Tobruk and – as said – El Alamein, but was recalled to Australia to undergo further training and then off to the Pacific to fight the Japanese.
    Don was not much more than a boy when he left his parents in rural Tasmania midlands. And all those years did not return to his home. He experienced many things and saw many terrible sights.
    Seventeen years ago I did a documentary with the ABC television entitled, “Tasmanians at War” and Don was interviewed during the course of filming. It was eventually aired throughout the State. One scene I will never forget. Don was recalling his war service and it came to the point when he had been demobbed and was returning home. He had arrived in Hobart and caught the train back to his country house. He walked in the door only to see his mother and father waiting for him. But Don had been away for near-on six years and the boy had become a man, having done and seen things that only war can show. There was no embracing; it was as though a stranger had returned. And in the words of Don, played on television, “They (his parents) did not know me.” And that man who was indeed a man in every sense, in front of the cameras, broke down in tears after all those years. He had returned a different person than the one who went away. It was a moving piece and it shows that time does not dim the memory or the sense of experience.
    I have interviewed many servicemen over the last fifty years. I can recall interviewing a number of ex POWs and have been amazed how their experiences under a brutal master still plays on their mind and having to endure nightmares sixty and more years on.
    You see, war effects the physic and it is with the veteran for the rest of his life, no matter how long he lives. On Anzac Day we honour those who died in their service of their country and their community, as we should. Many of those who served returned wounded, at times with horrific wounds with which they had to live the rest of their lives and often that life was cut short because of it. But we tend to not recognise that all, without exception, returned scarred psychologically.
    As a student of military history I am often saddened to learn of the many that spent their time, in what was then termed, “Asylums” because of their war experiences. These poor souls are not counted as casualties, but nonetheless, they were casualties just the same as those who died. Those who were sent to such institutions began with The Anglo-Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) and increased dramatically after World War One. Then through to World War II and beyond. Many of these men were “shell shock”, later to be known as “Battle fatigue”. And it well worth noting that those who have taken their own lives after returning from Afghanistan, is eight times higher than the actual fatality rate from that war.
    Another late friend of mine, Kay, served in Korea, that forgotten war. He said to me that when he returned to Australia and back to Tasmania it was just like leaving work for the day. There was no marching in the streets, no fanfare, nothing. Like Don, he caught the train home, endeavoured to catch up where he left off and live life as though it had not happened. That of course was impossible. He once shared with me statistics which he had kept, of those Korean Returned Servicemen who had died from cancer of various forms, much higher than the civilian population and tragically, from taking their own lives.
    And we have seen much the same of the Vietnam War. I can recall when our soldiers returned from war they were attacked from cowardly radical members of the public when they marched in the streets of Sydney and there have never been any apology from those leading politicians and academics who led the protesters.
    It has been said of late that in the future we may have to ”tone down” Anzac Day so not to offend some members of the community. I believe that to do so would be ungrateful to the memory of those who served. No, we should honour those who died, forever. Not to so, would be ungrateful and I do not believe the majority of Australians are not ungrateful for the service of those who did.
    Australians have been involved in many wars, even before federation. Post Vietnam has seen participation in many theatres and we are still involved in Afghanistan where we have won two Victoria Crosses and prior to Vietnam, Malaya and Borneo, these latter two now regulated to the pages of forgotten history books.
    Of many who served we have learnt of their service to their comrades, friends and country. These selfless people, who decided to serve others before themselves should be appreciated; not idolised, as that is exactly what they do not want to happen. And it has only been in recent years that those men of the Merchant Navy have been recognised and what of our brave nurses who firstly went to South Africa in the Boer War at their own expense? They with compassion wanted to serve. And those who stayed behind in the various services giving support to those overseas. And what of the Coastwatchers in the Pacific during WWII many of who lost their lives as written on the memorial to them at Madgang in New Guinea, “They watched and warned and died that we might live”.
    I knew a Battle of Britain pilot, who made his home in Tasmania. Sadly Reg Llewellyn has died, but he made an important comment. He said repeatedly that without the ground crew he and the others could to have done his job. Let us not forget those whose support allowed the success of those on the actual battlefield. And let us not forget our own Stuart Walch RAF, the only Tasmanian who died fighting in the Battle of Britain. I had the honour to be present several years ago at an unveiling of a plaque to his memory.
    We talk often of the heroism, the statistics, the glory of the deaths and we take pride in this and perhaps we should. We should not forget, however, the other personal human side, such as how these men were affected by their service, suffering silently, unable to expose their feelings and deeds. The cost of war is far above those who died, high and tragic as it is.
    Anzac Day means to remember and to appreciate those sacrifices made on our behalf. Many men died while serving Australia, over 102,000. Many men and women suffered terribly while a Prisoner of War under the Japanese. We should not forget the sacrifice of our military and nurses and all the other auxiliary forces that served so bravely and selflessly. Our soldiers went to war for their country and in an effort to protect their families and a way of life they wanted to keep. Anzac Day means to me, not to forget.
    Our fathers fought in the frozen wastes of Northern Russia, post Wold War I (largely forgotten), in the heat of Turkey, in the muddy bogs of Western Europe, in Greece and Crete, in the deserts of North Africa at Tobruk and El Alamein, on the plains of South Africa, in the jungles of New Guinea, over the skies of Germany, on the Ocean seas and later, through the cold hard winters of Korea and the stinking infested swamps of Vietnam. Our troops are today in Iraq and Afghanistan; whether we should be there or not is not the point, but the fact remains they are there, fighting for a Cause. The tradition continues.
    War is a terrible thing. By remembering those Anzacs we are not glorifying war. That would be wrong. Sometimes, however, in life, we have to do things that would normally choose NOT to do. Going to war was not something most of the soldiers wanted to do. But they felt they had to; they believed they had to stop the enemy. And by stopping them, that meant fighting them – hard fighting, dangerous fighting and as I said, many lost their lives in doing so. The families that remained behind while their men were off fighting had to endure terrible suffering in that they did not know if their loved one were surviving. Many a poor mother and father lost one of their sons or more, in their country’s Cause. I know you understand why we keep Anzac Day and why it is important to continue to keep Anzac Day. It is a sacred day for our nation.
    Our freedom was won for us. Today we must be eternally vigilant. In Australia at the moment we are under threat of losing our freedom of movement, our freedom of expression, even our freedom to how we wish to think. Eternal vigilance; and let us learn from our previous generations who knew what it was to love freedom.
    Thank you for listening and thank you for inviting me today.

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