Ambassador Paul Griffiths' ANZAC Day 2021 Address
Representatives of the Israeli Government
Defence attachés and military personnel, including those serving with UNTSO
Rabbi Apple and Reverend Keizer
Members of our Australian community
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and especially those joining us online.
It is a great honour for me to address you on my first ANZAC Day in Israel.
These COVID-19 times have been strange, isolating and challenging. But gathering here today as a group to honour those who made extraordinary sacrifices gives me great strength.
It is worth remembering that dealing with uncertainty amid a pandemic is not new. And some had it far tougher than we have in recent times. Over 100 years ago, as the First World War was drawing to a close, and the monumental task of repatriating countless tired and homesick soldiers began, the world faced a pandemic that would be more deadly than “the war to end all wars”. Back then, just as now, quarantining procedures, while not perfect, were successful in slowing the spread of the disease.
As we gather here, in a small COVID-friendly setting, to honour the Australian and New Zealand soldiers (the ANZACs), we are reminded of their bravery and sacrifice during similar periods of global upheaval and uncertainty. Our responsibility to remember their resilience in the face of adversity is that much more important today and can serve as a guide for how we navigate through this crisis together.
In preparing for today, I read through the ANZAC stories that members of the community shared with the Embassy. I have been struck by how many of these stories resonate and reflect so much of our experience in this part of the world today. I thought it would be appropriate to focus on two such stories that highlight the enduring ANZAC spirit and longstanding Australia-Israeli connections.
The first is Trooper Michael Dwyer.
Born in Ireland, Trooper Michael Dwyer had already served for three years with the Hussars before making Kalgoorlie, Western Australia his family’s home. He enlisted with the 1st Australian Imperial Force on 10th February 1915 and embarked with the 3rd Reinforcements from Fremantle to the Middle East on 19 February 1915. He fought in the Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Trooper Michael Dwyer was killed in action with a howitzer gun on on 31st July 1918. He is buried here in the Jerusalem War Cemetery.
Writing to his wife, Sarah Dwyer, on the death of her husband, Michael’s Commanding Officer said: “It is with deep regret that I have to confirm the news, already officially conveyed to you, of the death of your husband Trooper Michael Dwyer. Your husband’s services, both at Gallipoli and through-out the Sinai and Palestine campaigns, have been most constant and meritorious. His generous disposition, quiet heroism, and self-sacrificing devotion to duty, maintained throughout three long and trying campaigns, have endeared him to all ranks, and made his name one that will never be forgotten in the regiment.”
Just take a moment to imagine receiving that letter. Imagine sitting in Kalgoorlie, waiting every day for any news from your loved one on the other side of the world. No FaceTime, No Whatsapp. Just waiting for the letter that may or may not arrive. And then to receive such a crushing letter, alone but for your 3-year-old son by your side. The courage and commitment of the soldiers and, importantly, their partners and families, can give us great perspective as we navigate these uncertain times.
Another story I read was about Patrick Gordon Mayoh. Patrick enlisted as a Gunner in the 2nd/1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment on 8th July 1940. As a young Crookwell boy in his twenties, Patrick had to leave the love of his life, the pregnant Leila Mayoh, to serve in a land he only knew from the Bible.
Patrick knew he was going to face battle. But what he hadn’t prepared for was a letter he received just weeks after stepping off the ship.
The letter was crushing. Leila had given birth to a stillborn baby.
Despite this painful news, Patrick remained with his unit, serving in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and Egypt. He would ultimately be away from home for almost five years.
This Australian soldier was the grandfather of the Embassy’s very own Second Secretary Patrick Mayoh. More than seventy years after his grandfather fought here in the Second World War, Paddy is following in his footsteps and representing Australia in Israel, albeit in different circumstances. For Paddy, being in Israel as a diplomat is not only a professional honour – it is also a way to learn more about himself and the great man he was named after.
Michael Dwyer and Patrick Gordon Mayoh have both bestowed upon us the lessons of courage and commitment - no matter the circumstances. Their legacy, and that of thousands of ANZACs who made the ultimate sacrifice, are now in our possession. Paddy’s story is also testament to the strong ongoing links, forged in times of great upheaval and uncertainty, between Australia and Israel.
The Blessing we will soon be reciting mentions the torch that “has been passed on to us” and the hope that we will “carry on the work which cost so much”.
And as we look towards the future, let’s all continue to draw strength from this legacy and the ongoing links to “carry on the work” with persistence and resolve and to honour the sacrifices made by these ANZACs.
Lest We Forget.