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14 Oct 2015

Lone Pine

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 15:30 ): In August this year I had the privilege of being a member of a delegation of this parliament that represented the people of South Australia at the centenary of the Battle of Lone Pine. The delegation was led by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and, in addition to myself, it comprised: the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, the member for Taylor and the shadow minister for veterans’ affairs (the member for Morphett).

Like my fellow members of the House of Assembly, I wish to note the centenary of the battles of Lone Pine and The Nek at Gallipoli and gratefully acknowledge the courage and heroism displayed by the forces involved, the significant injuries suffered by the gallant ANZACs (the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand) and the tenacity of the opposing Turkish forces.

The August offensive of 1915 commenced only a few months after the landing and was a valiant attempt to break the stalemate that was cruelly developing. Despite the extreme risk, the chance to force a decision on the peninsula was humbly accepted by the officers and their men. The losses suffered during this offensive were on a horrific scale. Up to 9,000 Australians died, as well as 3,000 New Zealanders, 21,000 British and Imperial soldiers and 10,000 French.

One could not help but be overcome with great sadness as we walked among the ordered graves of the dead, many of whom lived much of their short lives growing up in South Australia and playing in the suburbs and streets that are so familiar to us all. Many of the graves of our dead soldiers are now watched over by large oak trees, which act as sentinels guarding the souls and memory of our lost sons. The stillness of this sacred place is broken only by the cool sea breeze. On a clear day one can see as far as Troy, an ancient reminder of the folly of war.

I found the inscriptions on the gravestones of family members particularly moving. They are a startling reminder of the mothers and fathers crippled by the pain of losing their beloved sons in a military campaign that they struggled to understand. The pain of the loss, as expressed in simple sentences, still resonates loudly on the otherwise quiet and pensive peninsula.

The parliamentary delegation attended two significant commemorative events during the visit. The first was the Bringing the Spirits Home Ceremony. Together with the Governor-General, we were privileged to witness the ceremony conducted by Indigenous soldiers of the three services of the Australian Defence Force. The spirits of our Indigenous soldiers were called home to their land and its sacred earth. The ceremony contained elements of all our Indigenous cultures, stretching from the Torres Strait Islands to inland Australia.

The parliamentary delegation also attended the Lone Pine cenotaph and the ceremony of commemoration on the day of the centenary of the battle. The Lone Pine Cemetery is located on what was considered in 1915 the strategically important plateau on the southern extreme of the Anzac sector. It was attacked by Australian forces on 6 August 1915, commencing at 05:30. We laid a wreath on behalf of the people of South Australia, the members of the Legislative Council and the members of the other place.

I wish to pay particular tribute to the young men of my former school who fell in this and other battles on the peninsula. Accounts of their lives can be found in the recent publication titled Fallen Saints, authored by Mr Robert Kearney. One of them was James Leslie Gordon. He was born in Port Pirie and educated in Adelaide. Upon completing his schooling, he attended the law school at Adelaide University and then practised law.

He enlisted in September 1914 and was killed in action in July 1915. He is buried at Beach Cemetery. His loss was deeply felt by members of the legal community. His brother Kenneth also enlisted and was killed in a campaign. He is buried at Lone Pine. One can only imagine the grief of their parents, who lost two sons, one shortly after another. Thankfully, the younger brother survived the war and returned home.

I wish to thank the staff of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for their assistance to the parliamentary delegation. I also thank the Turkish officials who gave us such a warm welcome. We must never forget the sacrifice of the young men who died for their king and country. We must ensure that future generations know of their toils in foreign lands and remember their sacrifice.

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