Remembrance Day, 11th November 2012 [fr]
At the occasion of the 94th anniversary of the 1918 armistice, which marked the end of the First World War, a commemoration ceremony was held at the Embassy of France in Canberra.
The memorial ceremony presided by H.E. Mr. Stéphane Romatet, Ambassador of France to Australia, took place on Sunday 11 November in the presence of General David Hurley, Chief of the Defence Force, as well as veterans and personalities of the diplomatic corps.
- The French-australian War Memorial on the ground of the French Embassy in Canberra.
Speech delivered by H.E. M. Stéphane Romatet:
Once again we gather; once again we collect ourselves. As some of us have already done for several years. As our fathers and our grandfathers have done every year on November 11, since 1918.
We gathered this morning at the Australian War Memorial. We are now at the French-Australian War Monument. Today, in every Australian community, in each village in France, the same bugle sounds. It is the same emotion that grips each of us in this great communion of remembrance.
For each of us here this morning, we are reminded of a very personal page of our own family history. That of a grandfather or great-uncle, that a member of our family two or three generations removed, those buried in the huge cemeteries of northern France. Sixty thousand Australian graves will be laid with flowers later today on the soil of France when the sun rises. In Posières, in Villiers-le-Bretonneux, in Fromelles. In all the villages which names are engraved on the side of our memories!
The faces of these dead Australians, these "lost diggers", we now get to know them. These are the faces of Vignacourt, this small village in Picardy, where Australian soldiers gathered before going to the front. On those faces we can see courage, hope, but also sadness and fear. A few days ago, with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, with the Chairman of the Australian War Memorial (Hon Doolan), we opened this deeply moving exhibition of photographs of these soldiers. These photos were forgotten for over 50 years, stored in the attic of a village house. They are now displayed here, in Canberra.
General Hurley, today you exercise the highest responsibility, the most prominent: the responsibility to perpetuate the engagement of the Australian Army for liberty, for human values. As did your wartime predecessors. The names of the 39 Australian soldiers killed in mission in Afghanistan have been added to the wall of honor at the War Memorial. Their names belong now to the cohort of your country’s youth fallen for freedom. Your presence in front of this memorial reflects the continuity between the past and the present, between memory and duty, between remembrance and action.
Today, more than ever, dear Australian friends, we, representatives of the nations with which your soldiers fought, wish to tell you once again: we will never forget.
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Mr. Eric Soulier, Counsellor for Cooperation and Cultural Action of the French Embassy, master of ceremonies.
H.E. Mr. Stéphane Romatet, Ambassador of France to Australia, delivering his speech.
General David Hurley, Chief of the Australian Defence Force.
General David Hurley, Chief of the Australian Defence Force and H.E. Mr. Stéphane Romatet, Ambassador of France to Australia, laying the first wreath at the foot of the French-Australian War Memorial.
H.E. Mr. Paul Damian Madden, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom and H.E. Mr. Jeffrey Bleich, Ambassador of the United States of America.
Ms Nola Anderson, acting-Director of the Australian War Memorial and Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial.
Mr. Shane Carmody, deputy President of the Repatriation Commission and Rear Admiral Trevor Jones, Deputy Chief of Navy.
Mr. Jacques Petit, President of the French Veterans’ Section of Canberra and Mr. John King, President of the RSL ACT.
The Last Post.
The Telopea Park School choir closed the memorial ceremony with the French and Australian anthems.
(© All pictures by Press and Information Department/Claire Dupré).