Skip to main content

Premier’s Message – September 2019

Welcome to the September edition of Veterans E-news.

While every day represents the anniversary of some significant event, particularly regarding our history of military service, September is worthy of special mention.

September 3, 1939, saw Great Britain declare war on Germany following that country’s invasion of Poland two days earlier. As a result, Australia was also at war. This began the most devastating conflict in human history.

More than 72 million people were killed during the war – almost 3% of the world’s population. 25 million were from the Soviet Union, almost 6 million were Jews, more than 40,000 were Australians. The war involved over 900,000 aircraft, 280,000 tanks, more than 4,000 ships and over 1 million artillery pieces. It was total war on an industrial scale. But from that catastrophic event came arguably our greatest generation, some of whom survive today.

Their forefathers had fought in the First World War and Tuesday September 7, 1915, saw the first memorial to those who had lost their lives at Gallipoli, our first national response to global conflict, dedicated in the Adelaide parklands.

On Sunday, September 8, as has been the case since 2013, a commemorative service was held at the Australasian Soldiers Dardanelles Cenotaph, now located at the northern end of the Anzac Centenary Memorial Walk overlooking the Torrens Parade Ground and Adelaide’s memorial precinct. The service, led by the War Widows Guild of South Australia, has become a poignant annual reminder of the sacrifice of those who serve and their families who suffer from the loss of loved ones.

On 11 September, 1914, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF), formed just one month earlier following the beginning of the First World War, landed shore parties at Rabaul to secure the wireless station at Bita Paka. In this, the first Australian action of the First World War, the shore party comprising 25 Australian servicemen, took the wireless station but suffered the loss of six dead and five wounded, the first of more than 60,000 Australians killed during the war.  

Following Bita Paka, HMAS AE1, the first of two E Class submarines built for the Royal Australian Navy, was lost with all hands off Duke of York Islands on 14 September 1914. Its sinking had a profound effect on all Australians so early in the First World War. In 2017, the AE1 was found, 103 years later. In the words of the Director of the Australian War Memorial, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson, ‘Finding AE1 represents one of the most significant and practically meaningful events of Australia’s commemoration of the First World War’.

On 15 September, 1939, Prime Minister Menzies mobilised the militia and established the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The AIF was to be the voluntary component of Australia’s war effort for service overseas while the militia were initially only able to serve in Australia and its territories that, at that time, included Papua New Guinea. The AIF was to comprise an expeditionary force of 20,000 comprising an infantry division and ancillary units. It was the beginning of a commitment that would eventually see 900,900 personnel enlist in support of the war effort.

Fast forward 105 years and 20 September, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the multinational peacekeeping mission to East Timor (Interfet), commanded by then MAJGEN Peter Cosgrove, under Operation STABILISE. For five months a 22-nation regional coalition, comprising approximately 5,000 Australian servicemen and women, worked to restore peace, law and order before handing over to the United Nations Transition Authority East Timor (UNTAET).

Finally, 14 September marks Australian Peacekeepers’ and Peacemakers’ Day.  It recognises the contributions made by the Australian Defence Force, the Federal, State and Territory Police Forces, and Australian civilians to peacekeeping operations. It is a reminder of the difficulties and dangers international peacekeeping often faces in remote and isolated regions, where infrastructure is destroyed and peace is fragile. A commemorative Service is being held on Sunday 15 September at the South Australian National War Memorial to commemorate this important day.

On behalf of all South Australians, thank you for your service.

WordPress Lightbox Plugin