||We do not
know this Australians name and we never will. We do not know
his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or
precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia
he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of
Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances: whether he
was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become
a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married
or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he
had children, we do not know who they are. His family is lost to
us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian
Yet he has always been among those
we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians
who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians
who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the
324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war, and one of
the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000
Australians who have died in wars this century.
He is all of them. And he is one
This Australia and the Australia
he knew are like foreign countries. The tide of events since he
died has been so dramatic, so vast and all-consuming, a world
has been created beyond the reach of his imagination. He may have
been one of those who believed the Great War would be an adventure
too grand too miss. He may have felt that he would never live
down the shame of not going. But the chances are that he went
for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty - the
duty he owed his country and his king.
Because the Great War was a mad,
brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military
and political incompetence: because the waste of human life was
so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from
defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars
in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible, war,
we might think that this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But in honouring our war dead as
we always have, we declare that this is not true. For out of the
war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and
the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people -
and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they
were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians,
but the soldiers and sailors and nurses - those who taught us
to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient,
to believe in ourselves, to stick together. The Unknown Australian
Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved
that real nobility and grandeur belong not to empires and nations,
but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.
That is surely at the heart of the
Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war.
It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs
against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is
a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived
less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds
of mateship and the demands of necessity. It is a democratic tradition,
the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
This unknown Australian is not interred
here to glorify war over peace; or to assert a soldiers
character above a civilians; or one race or one nation or
one religion above another; or men above women; or the war in
which he fought and died above any other war; or one generation
above any that has or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory
of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia.
His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we
have gained. We have lost more than 100,000 lives, and with them
all their love of this country, and all their hope and energy.
We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice, and
with it a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper
understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore,
that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his
country. He might enshrine a nations love of peace and remind
us that, in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are
recorded here, there is faith enough for all of us."