Mayor’s ANZAC Day speech at Brighton’s new Remembrance Park

By TONY FOSTER

MAY I FIRST ACKNOWLEDGE AND PAY RESPECT TO THE TASMANIAN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY AS THE TRADITIONAL AND ORIGINAL OWNERS, AND CONTINUING CUSTODIANS OF THIS LAND ON WHICH WE GATHER TODAY AND ACKNOWLEDGE ELDERS PAST AND PRESENT.

It is a travesty of justice that while our indigenous people enlisted, fought, died and returned to our Country are not recognised in the Constitution of Australia, I hope this will be corrected.

TODAY, on the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC’s ill-fated landing at Gallipoli, we assemble for the first time here at what is now known as ‘Remembrance Park’, to pay our respects and thanks to those who served in the Great War of 1914-1918 and to those who have served our Country in the theatres of war and conflict since that time. It is important to also recognise those many peacekeepers who have served our country over a long period of time.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about ‘Remembrance Park’.

Remembrance Park I believe is a very apt name as it acknowledges, not only our brave service men and women, but also the various uses of this site over the past century.

Remembered by most as the location of the Brighton Army Camp and originally known as the site of the Brighton-Pontville training camp, it saw the campaign and recruitment of soldiers for the First Expeditionary  Force who trained here from mid August until the 20th of October 1914 when they embarked from Hobart on the transport vessels ‘Geelong’ and ‘Katuma’ to go to war.

However at this time it was decided to move the training camp to Claremont. It was judged by the authorities at the time that the Brighton-Pontville site was unsuitable, owing to the inadequate water supply and other disadvantages such as distance from the capital city.

In 1931 this site became southern Tasmania’s first aerodrome, where the Royal Mail was delivered with one of those pilots being none other than the great Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. During that year, the first Empire Mail flight to England was undertaken from here by Australian National Airlines.

In 1939 war clouds loomed again and the Commonwealth Government of Australia acquired the land for a permanent army camp. Here many thousands of Tasmanians completed their military training before taking off for the battlefields either in North Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific.

The camp’s role changed in February 1944 when it housed 850 Italian Prisoners of War for two years.

After the war ended in 1945, refugees from Europe were housed here and in 1952 it became the Tasmanian home for National Service Training.

Following the Tasmanian bush fires of 1967 it was used as shelter for people left homeless by the disaster.

In 1999 under the name of ‘Tasmanian Safe Haven Centre’ the camp housed in excess of 400 refugees from war-torn Kosovo in Eastern Europe.

And in past years it has been used for Cadet training, not only Army Cadets but also those from the Royal Australian Air Force, and many Tasmanians fondly remember their days in camp at Brighton.

So this site has a long, long history, full of notable events and a never ending cast of colourful characters who have passed through its gates.

Sadly the camp it is no more and an amazing piece of Tasmanian military and social history has passed.

While it may be the end of an era it is very important that the Tasmanian community does not lose its memory of this incredible part of our heritage.

Remembrance Park as I said, is therefore a very apt name and I hope you agree.

So on behalf of the Tasmanian community I want to say thank you to Brighton Council, its ratepayers who have supported this important development, and also to those who have worked on this project since the idea was first hatched some years ago, until it’s completion just this week .

It represents a century of memories that are very much worth recognising and preserving.

The buildings that remain have recently been transferred to the Council and will need extensive renovation before they can be available for community use. Hopefully there will be some State and Commonwealth Grant monies available to assist the Council, in the meantime the Park Grounds are now officially available for public use.

I must also acknowledge the Touma Family who purchased the Army Camp site and who have been very good to deal with as we have worked to develop this precinct. They have travelled from Sydney to be with us today.

No matter where you are on the April 25, as an Australian one recognises the significance and the importance it has for us and our history as a Nation. It is a day about reflection, remembrance and commemoration and a day to give thanks to those who in particular made the supreme sacrifice in service to our nation.

Many men from our municipality made that supreme sacrifice. In fact the official war history, the Brighton war memorial and council minutes list a total of 58 men who gave their lives on the Gallipoli Peninsular or the Western Front in France and hundreds more who returned home seriously wounded – a significant contribution from what was then a relatively small municipality. One only has to look at the many cenotaphs, memorials and honour rolls that are in and around our municipal buildings, churches and schools to acknowledge those from this area who served in theatres of war and conflict so that we have the life that we have today in this country.

At this time last year, I spoke about three young men from Brighton who were killed in action during that Great War of 1914 – 1918 – Harry Hodgman, Alan Hodgman and George Gunn.  They were buried in Europe but remembered forever on the family headstones in the old Congregational Church cemetery  in Pontville.

At this time 100 years ago Private Harry Hodgman would be on the Island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea preparing to go into battle against the Turks at Anzac Cove. The first landing at Anzac Cove was at 4.18 am and some 12 hours later Harry Hodgman was killed in one of the last advances on the 25th of April 1915. He was shot through the head by a sniper whilst landing at Anzac Cove 100 years ago today.

Private Harry Hodgman who was educated at Brighton State School and later at the Friends High School in Hobart became the first Tasmanian to die at Gallipoli.

He is buried at Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Tasmanians made a great sacrifice at Gallipoli, nearly 200 died there and now rest in various cemeteries on the Turkish Peninsula.

In 2012 along with Noeline, my son James and brother Michael I had the privilege to attend the Dawn service at Anzac Cove and later that morning at another service at Lone Pine .

While there were many emotional times experienced during that trip to Gallipoli for Anzac Day, one that stands out to me is etched on a memorial attesting to the bravery of the Australians during that ill-fated mistake and military failure and it was written by the Turkish Commander  at the time and later founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In 1934 in a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli he wrote: –

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country

Therefore rest in peace

There is no difference between the Johnnies

and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You …. The Mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries

wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land

they have become our sons as well.

What a marvellous and moving tribute from the military leader who opposed our brave soldiers at Gallipoli.

During the eight month campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula fighting against the Turkish Forces, Australia suffered 8700 dead,19000 wounded and 700 missing, presumed dead.

After Gallipoli Australian Forces continued fighting on the Western Front in France and Belgium against the Germans in battles of the Somme, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Passchendaele, Villes Bretonneux and Fromelles to name a few –

Perhaps the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda best expressed the terror and misery of war, but also the fortitude, bravery and sacrifice of servicemen and women when he wrote:

I died with every death, so I was able to live again

Bound by my testimony and by my unyielding hope.

 These words are imprinted here….

For me, this perhaps sums up the sadness and pain we feel when we remember horrific events. But also it tells us that it is so necessary to remember. In fact, the only way we can truly attempt to not repeat the past, is to remember it. It also reminds us, that remembering horror, tragedy and wrong caused by humanity, must not be cause to lose hope.

While we come together today to remember our ANZACs, Remembrance Park should be a place for anyone to spend time to reflect and to enjoy. It is a place of remembrance for everyone to reflect on anything and anyone. This I think fits with the history of the site (and Brighton), as a place that has welcomed diverse groups of people. It is also symbolic of the mistakes that have been made in the past, often causing war and conflict, which have always involved the exclusion of certain groups of people – we won’t make this mistake with our park. Everyone is welcome here.

That said, the front section of the park does honour our war dead and I know that like us, many communities will be holding Anzac Day Commemorative Services today.

Australia lost 61,513 servicemen during World War 1, 39,649 during World War 2.

And a further 1622 lost their lives during other conflicts which include the Boer War, Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Iraq and Afghanistan.

So today we pay tribute to the 102,784 Australians who lost their lives through war and the many more thousands that have been wounded.

It is not our intention to honour or glorify war; it is our intention to honour the memory of those who served and those who made the supreme sacrifice in service to their country.

We thank them and shall always remember them.

Lest we forget!

 

 

 

 

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