Minister reflects on the spirit of Anzac

By Guy Barnett, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
This year, 2024, marks 110 years since the outbreak of war with Germany on 4 August 1914. It was known as “The Great War” and “the war to end all wars,” where military casualties were estimated at eight million and civilian casualties estimated at 6.5 million. Counted among those were more than 60,000 Australians who were killed.

The Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, pledged full support to Great Britain immediately after the outbreak of that First World War. In Tasmania, the German merchant ship the Oberhausen which was collecting timber from Port Huon in southern Tasmania was impounded and its 45 crew taken prisoner of war.

The town of Bismarck in southern Tasmania had its name quickly changed to Collinsvale (after Tasmania’s first Governor Colonel David Collins) and Tasmanians took up the call for God, King and Country with more than 1000 men enlisting and after some training, embarking on 20 October 1914 on ships the Geelong and Katuna from Hobart to Albany, Western Australia.

There they joined with 21,500 Australian troops, 8500 New Zealand troops and 12,000 horses setting sail to Egypt and then to Gallipoli. Australia also soon established the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force and after a small battle with the Germans and some locals, took over, in September 1914, German-occupied New Guinea (where the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is visiting this Anzac Day to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Australian forces who defended Papua-New Guinea at Kokoda against the Japanese in World War II).

The outbreak of war would set off a chain of events that would remake Tasmania and Australia and indeed the world.  It has been 109 years since the first Anzac Day on 25 April 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops began their war effort at Gallipoli in Turkey. It was ultimately a 10-month failed campaign where our troops withdrew after the loss of 8709 lives. However, the Anzac Spirit was forged at Gallipoli and has been evident ever since.

The attributes that make Australia great such as courage, mateship, service, and sacrifice were demonstrated time and again. In fact, Evandale man Harry Murray who served at Gallipoli and in France and Belgium on the Western Front, became the most highly decorated soldier for all of the Commonwealth in World War I. He was known as “Mad Harry” for his incredible bravery support for his men and willingness to go where others would not.

Harry enlisted again in World War II and died on 7 January 1966. He demonstrated those attributes and is a symbol of the Anzac spirit for all of us today. More than 15,000 Tasmanians served in World War I with more than 3000 killed.

Anzac Day is very well attended and is now possibly the most spiritual day of the year for most Australians. We are often reminded at Anzac Day services of Jesus’ words “greater love has no one than this, than he who lay down his life for his friend”. 

Our nation stops at dawn and at 11 am on Anzac Day to commemorate all those who have fought and died for the peace and freedoms that we enjoy today.  It is not a time to celebrate as our freedom has been won at great cost including the pain distress and suffering of those who have returned and their families.

It is a time to honour and say thank you to our 17,500 Tasmanian veterans and all those who have served and continue to serve.  Lest we forget.

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news online and read our print edition every second Friday.

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