11 November 1993
We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will.
We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor 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 was.
Yet he has always been among those whom 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 of us.
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 that the Great War would be an adventure too grand to miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are he went for no other reason than that he believed it was 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 this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But, in honouring our war dead, as we always have and as we do today, 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, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together......
Construction of the Speech 1. Written by Don Watson – Paul Keating’s speech writer 2. In interviews after the delivery of this speech, Watson emphasized that it is the delivery of the speech that makes it the property of the speechmaker. As a spoken medium, a speech is reliant on intonation, vocal emphasis, body language and other delivery techniques specific to the person delivering the speech 3. Keating’s love of history and interest in promoting an Australian identity are clearly evident 4. A suitable somber mood is quickly established and maintained but is lifted in the second paragraph by the patriotic overtone. 5. The speech begins with the inclusive “We” – immediately engaging the audience 6. Paragraphs are short and direct 7. Sentence length is varied but balanced – lending fluidity and a measured pace. 8. Emotional impact is achieved by juxtaposition of factual data and interpretative inference.
The Unknown Australian Soldier whom we are interring today was one of those who, by his deeds, proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs, 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…