On 11 November 2018, Remembrance Day, Australia commemorated 100 years since the end of the First World War. That date also marked the end of the Anzac Centenary 2014–2018—one of the most important periods of commemoration of the First World War in our nation’s history.
The occasion gave all Australians an opportunity to reflect and remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War, as well as more than two million Australians who have served in the Australian Defence Force and those on the home front who have cared for and supported them.
DVA was the lead government agency and instrumental in the delivery of the Anzac Centenary 2014–2018. Our work for the Centenary began in 2014 with services to commemorate the departure of first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops from Albany in Western Australia on 1 November 1914. It concluded with Armistice services at Villers-Bretonneux in France in 2018. Throughout the Centenary DVA has managed safe, solemn and dignified services and commemorations in Australia and overseas.
At dawn on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 2015, 100 years after the Anzacs had come ashore there, more than 10,000 people took part in a service of commemoration and heard moving tributes to veterans’ service and sacrifice from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales; the Hon Tony Abbott MP, the then Prime Minister of Australia; and the Rt Hon John Key, the then Prime Minister of New Zealand.
In August 2015, Australia commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine. Between 6 and 10 August 1915, there were more than 2,000 Australian and some 7,000 Turkish casualties. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during that battle.
From 2016 the focus of commemorations was on Australia’s role on the Western Front in Europe. Of the more than 295,000 Australians who served on the Western Front between March 1916 and November 1918 in the Australian Imperial Force, some 46,000 were killed and more than 130,000 were wounded.
Over the last few years visitors from Australia, France, the UK and other nations have attended commemorations to mark the 100th anniversaries of significant battles at Fromelles (July 2016), Pozieres (July 2016), Bullecourt (April 2017), Polygon Wood in Belgium (September 2017), Beersheba in Israel (October 2017), Villers-Bretonneux (April 2018), and Hamel (July 2018).
Some of DVA’s special activities to mark the Anzac Centenary included the delivery of commemorative grants, an education and community awareness program, the centenary services at Gallipoli in 2015 and five additional commemorative services held on the 100th anniversary of significant battles during the Anzac Centenary 2015–2018 in France and Belgium.
A legacy of the Centenary is that it gave the Australian community a broader understanding of Australia’s military experience and its impacts. The lessons from the program will be used to enhance future commemoration programs to carry forward the Anzac spirit and the values of service and sacrifice.
While there has been a focus on the First World War commemorations, there has also been recognition of a Century of Service. More than 102,000 Australians have been killed in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations over the last 100 years. DVA is deeply committed to ensuring that their sacrifice is not forgotten.