Anzac Day Address – Alistair McNee

Over 100 Members again attended the Anzac Day Ceremony held in the Centenary Gardens on Thursday, 25 April 2019. Alistair McNee, a 32-year Member and current vice-captain of The Brisbane Golf Club delivered a wonderful address and his speech has been posted below.

As a small child, I remember being rugged up against the cold and taken to a chilly Dawn Service.

It was a service I didn’t understand – a service of silence, half murmured hymns and old men gathered in their own thoughts.

And yet somehow those stories of service and sacrifice not only resonated with me but have also wound themselves into the Australian DNA.

Like most Australians today, I have no faded photographs of men or women in uniform on my mantelpiece – and I know of no family members who fought on the beaches of Gallipoli or the muddy fields of the Somme.

And yet, like all of us, I benefit from what they have done.

Inscribed into the walls of our Nation’s Memorial are the names of more than 102,000 Australians; Australians from all walks of life – Australians by birth; Australians by choice; indigenous Australians – who fought and died for our country; their country; the country of their ancestors.

And there are also the names of women – women who, from the Boer War onwards, have served with gallantry, have been prisoners of war, and have died wearing the uniform of this nation – from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific to the desert sands of the Western Sahara.

These women include a group of twenty-two nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service, evacuated from Singapore. When their ship, the Vyner Brook, was torpedoed in the Bangka Straits, they swam through the night to shore.

There, on Monday the 16th February 1942, shortly after 10am, they were lined up along the beach, still in their uniforms – the Red Cross sewn onto their left sleeve – and at bayonet point were ordered into the sea.

They were under no illusion about their fate. In those last moments before the machine guns opened fire, Matron Irene Drummond turned to her nurses with words of comfort and of courage.

And her words speak for a nation … “Chins up girls, I’m proud of you and I love you all.”

Behind every name on every memorial, large and small, across this nation, there is a story of courage.

The “Roll of Honour” at The Brisbane Golf Club lists 43 such men, 3 of whom did not return.

And yet for every name there is another story – a story of loss; of family, of friends and of those left behind.

Each one a narrative thread in the fabric of service that underpins our nation.

Each a thread, extending from the sands of Gallipoli, to the servicemen and women of the Royal Australian Navy, Army and Royal Australian Air Force that stand on duty today on operations worldwide.

But as an Australian, I stand here in awe of what those who went before have given me.

Because every Australian, regardless of whether we have a direct link to those that wore the uniform or not, is a recipient of their sacrifice.

And of their hope that we, who are left to grow old, would live in a country at peace; a prosperous country; a country where we are each free to vote; to choose our own paths through life; to marry whom we please and where we hold the hope that our children will have those same freedoms.

Now I understand that when the bugler sounds the Reveille – the call to awaken – it is not a call to the dead. It is a call to the living.

It calls to each of us – that we might use the threads of their sacrifice to strengthen the fabric of this nation.

That we might live our lives with the same courage, the same loyalty.

That we might be imbued with fairness and compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves.

And set an example for the next generation of children, wrapped up against the cold and dark of the dawn….

And then perhaps, if the so many, who sacrificed so much, were to walk amongst us today, they might say:

We too, are proud of you.”

Lest we forget.

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