(Remembering Alec William Campbell and William Evan Adam)

NOVEMBER 11, 2005.

This is an especially significant Remembrance Day, this 87th annual memorial marking the day the guns fell silent on the Western Front.

It is significant because the last Australian to take part in the War to end all wars, the Great War, died less than one month ago.

William Evan Adam died on October the sixteenth, aged 106; he had enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy, shortly after its formation, when he was 14.

A little more than three years ago, on May the 16th, 2002, Tasmania’s Alec William Campbell died aged 103.

Known to his mates as “the Kid” Alec enlisted two months after the Gallipoli landing, aged only 16 years and four months.

He was our last human link to Gallipoli.

With the passing of Alec Campbell and William Evan Adam, it is now up to us to keep alive the memory of the First World War.

It is a solemn duty.

We keep alive the memory on occasions such as this. But we should not make it just a once a year duty.

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month specifically marks a ceremony in a railway carriage north of Paris in November 1918.

In that banal setting not far from the resting places of hundreds of thousands of young men, the seal was set on the end of probably the most horrific war of all time. The first technical war with devices of mass destruction.

61,829 Australians died in the First World War, 53,993 of them in battle. 137,013 were wounded in action, more than 16,000 were gassed

But when we are silent for one minute at eleven o’clock every November the eleventh, we do not only remember those awful numbers.

Our minds are free to remember all who died in all wars. Some of them will be relatives, or people we know of through others.

Some will be symbolic of humanity in general.

For most of us, World War Two is closer and more immediate.

We know some of those who took part. Our families remember some who died.

But those who participated in that war, much nearer to home, are also fading. We see them die each year, taking their private memories with them.

It will not be many years before no-one who took part in the Second World War remains to help us keep our collective memory alive; it will be up to us.

So again, we must carry that burden of memory.

For a people that forgets its history is bound to repeat it.

Lest we forget.