Commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War Armistice at the French Embassy in Australia [fr]
On this symbolic 11th of November 2018, roughly 200 people were gathered for the Armistice 100th anniversary ceremony hosted by the French Embassy, to honor the memory of fallen soldiers.
Many ambassadors, political figures, military members and veterans, and other invited representatives of institutions and unions gathered at the Embassy to commemorate Remembrance Day. Christopher Pyne, the Australian Minister for Defence, was the guest of honor of the ceremony.
The Embassy also welcomed “cadets” from the Ecole spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French Scout Group “Les Eclaireurs de Canberra”, and the choir of the Telopea Park School, Lycée franco-australien, reflecting the multiple ties existing between the two countries.
Mr. Christophe Penot, French Ambassador to Australia, started the ceremony by paying tribute to the sacrifice of the French “Poilus”, and of the Australians “who went to fight for their country on the other side of the world”.
He pointed out the extent to which the peaceful environment we are enjoying today is precarious, and that nationalism and totalitarianism remain serious threats, reminding us not to rest on our laurels: “To be vigilant: this is the lesson we can draw from the memory of the dreadful massacre of the Great War. This is how we can be worthy of the memory of those who gave their lives one century ago.”
Dr Anna Prinz, German Ambassador to Australia, then underlined the deep ties between France and Germany, illustrated in a wide range of examples: from student mobility to political relationships – as displayed on Saturday by the symbolic meeting between President Macron and the German Chancellor in the Compiègne Forest.
“We built the EU dream step by step […] I am profoundly optimistic about a future of European stability” she said.
The Honorable Christopher Pyne, Minister for Defence, shed the light upon the reasons why the Great War shaped the foundations of Australia as a nation. Roughly 500 000 Australians – equivalent to 10% of the country’s population at the time and 40% of the available male population – volunteered to fight against the Triple Alliance, and 60 000 “Diggers” never came back home.
The Minister brought up the memory of two of his great-uncles who fell at the front, one of them at Gallipoli (Turkey), and the other during the battle of the Somme in France –among “all these stories of Australian families who lost members during the war”.
Then, the choir of the Telopea Park School performed the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” that evokes for the British, Australians, New-Zealanders and Canadians the battle fields where their soldiers fell, and which are now covered by red poppies.
Mr. Jason Bensen, the master of ceremonies, invited Mr. Christophe Penot, Mr. Christopher Pyne, and Ms. Anna Prinz to lay wreaths in front of the Embassy’s war memorial. Mr Pyne laid his wreath on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Other ambassadors and political authorities were invited to lay wreaths, in the following order:
- General Angus CAMPBELL, Chief of Defence Force
- Mr. Gordon RAMSAY, representing ACT chief minister
- Ms. Gai BRODTMANN, Federal Member for Canberra, Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence
- HE Ms. Nineta BARBULESCU, Ambassador of Romania
- HE Ms. Menna RAWLINGS, High Commissioner for the United Kingdom
- HE Mr. Paul MADDISON, High Commissioner of Canada
- HE Mr. Mirza HAJRIC, Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- HE Mr. Marc MULLIE, Ambassador of Belgium
- HE Dr. Michael PULCH, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union
- HE Mr. Stefano GATTI, Ambassador of Italy
- Mr. James CAROUSO, chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the United States of America
- AIR COMMODORE Ian MOWER, representing High Commissioner of New Zealand
- Mr. Kerry STOKES, chairman of the Australian War Memorial
- Major General Justin ELLWOOD, deputy Chief of Army, on behalf of Chief of Army
- REAR ADMIRAL Mr. Gregory SAMMUT, on behalf of Chief of Navy
- AIR MARSHAL Leo DAVIES, Chief of Air Force
- Dr. Brendan NELSON, director of the Australian War Memorial
- Mr. John KING, president of the RSL ACT
- M. Jacques PETIT, president of the Association of the French « anciens combattants » in Canberra
A minute’s silence was observed by the entire assembly, before the choir interpreted the French and Australian anthems to conclude this important ceremony, followed by the public.
Meanwhile on this 11th of November, the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove attended the Armistice 100th anniversary ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Photo: Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images
Later in the day, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe received in Paris the title of Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia from the Governor General of Australia Peter Cosgrove. The Prime Minister declared: “We are neighbours, even if this is not something obvious when looking at a world map […], We are neighbours because we fought on the same beaches and in the same trenches. We felt the same cold, the same fear and the same shock […] We are neighbours today because we defend shared values: freedom, democracy and the respect for the rule of law”.