Australia

Australians to mark Remembrance Day, 100 years since The Great War's end

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At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, Australians around the country will pause to remember.

One name among the thousands on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial is Frank Ryan.

From a sheep-farming family in central New South Wales, he joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1916, one year after his older brother Ambrose, and arrived in France in 1917.

On 23 August 1918, he was shot and killed while fighting to retake the town of Chuignes from the Germans.

A studio portrait of Frank Ryan. Photo: Courtesy Gillian Kimball
A studio portrait of Frank Ryan. Photo: Courtesy Gillian Kimball
Gillian Kimball

His great-niece Gillian Kimball told SBS News she grew up hearing stories about his sacrifice.

"I was told by my father and my grandfather that he was a very likeable, responsible, sensible, lovely young man,” she said.

“Everybody was devastated at his death."

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European countries have started commemorations for Sunday's centenary of the armistice
European countries have started commemorations for Sunday's centenary of the armistice

62,000 Australians killed

Remembrance Day 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War One and 99 years since commemorations of the war began. This Sunday will be a century since the agreement which ended four years of world war was signed.

On 11 November 1918, the Germans signed the armistice agreement which led to their unconditional surrender. The armistice dictated the guns fall silent on the Western Front at 11 o’clock in the morning.

The hostilities of World War One had ended at a cost of millions of lives, including 62,000 Australians.

On Sunday, thousands of people are expected to attend the key national remembrance event at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, while others will gather at local shrines and ceremonies around the country wearing poppies, the flowers which grew on the battlefields after the war ended.

Gillian Kimball
Gillian Kimball at the Canberra War Memorial.
SBS News

Dean Lee, the chief executive of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, said the personal stories of Australians are distant but not forgotten.

"I think that one of the great travesties of the war is that people are disconnected from their loved ones who have served and sacrificed on foreign battlefields,” he said.

“The shrine and other war memorials provide a place where they can connect and maintain their connections with their loved ones."

The first Remembrance Day

On 11 November 1919, countries around the world marked the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice. In those early years, the national day was actually known as Armistice Day.

In London, Australian journalist Edward Honey suggested crowds fall silent for two minutes during the commemorative ceremony. King George V instructed people in the Commonwealth to remain silent for two minutes to remember the armistice “which stayed the world wide carnage of the four preceding years and marked the victory of Right and Freedom”.

In 1920, Armistice Day became a funeral procession. An unknown soldiers’ remains were entombed at Westminster Abbey in London as a permanent tribute to the unidentified soldiers who had been killed in the war.

After World War Two, the day was renamed Remembrance Day and took on a wider meaning.

Gillian Kimball at the Canberra War Memorial.
Gillian Kimball at the Canberra War Memorial.
SBS News

In 1993, on the 75th anniversary of World War One’s end, the remains of an unknown Australian soldier were interred at the war memorial.

And, in 1997, the Governor-General issued a proclamation urging all Australians to observe one minutes’ silence on Remembrance Day to remember all those who had died serving in Australia’s military.

Remembrance service
The RSL of Australia Victorian Branch's annual State Remembrance Service in Melbourne on Sunday.
AAP

Mr Lee told SBS the day provides an opportunity to honour the dead in all armed conflicts.

"What we see as we approach Remembrance Day are people who are seeking to come forward and show their respects for all service,” he said.

“I think that has peaked, really, since Australians have re-engaged in active conflict in the Middle East and there's no doubt that those actions have caused many younger people to start to understand how these actions have shaped the world we live in."

Mr Lee at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance
Mr Lee at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance
SBS

On Remembrance Day this year, people will pause and reflect not just on World War One, but the sacrifice of Australians in every war.

Ms Kimball said she hopes they will remember the ultimate sacrifice some paid.

"I'll just be thinking about the futility of war and the loss of life. And, hopefully, it's made a difference."

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