Skip to comments.Word of God lives on unknown soldier's tomb in War Memorial
Posted on 10/28/2013 1:28:10 PM PDT by naturalman1975
THE Australian War Memorial has abandoned a proposal to remove the words "known unto God" from the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier after the personal intervention of Tony Abbott.
The memorial's governing council decided at its meeting in August to replace two inscriptions on the tomb at the Canberra memorial with words from a speech by Paul Keating.
The memorial's director, former Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson, announced the changes in an unscripted National Press Club speech six weeks ago on a day when attention was focused on the swearing in of the new government.
It was several days before Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson was notified about the plan in an incoming briefing by his department.
Senior government officials say Senator Ronaldson wrote immediately to the AWM Council's chairman, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, expressing "extreme displeasure". He noted that the words had appeared on the tombstones of unidentified soldiers from the Commonwealth since World War I. It was only after a phone call from the Prime Minister to Dr Nelson that a compromise was offered by the council under which the words "known unto God" would be retained.
(Excerpt) Read more at theaustralian.com.au ...
Not after they read this
Currently the Tomb bears two inscriptions, one at each end.
KNOWN UNTO GOD
HE SYMBOLISES ALL AUSTRALIANS WHO'VE DIED IN WAR
The original (now abandoned) proposal would have replaced both of these with lines from Mr Keating's speech:
WE DO NOT KNOW THIS AUSTRALIAN'S NAME, WE NEVER WILL
HE IS ONE OF US, AND HE IS ALL OF US
Under the new proposal, KNOWN UNTO GOD will remain, while Keating's HE IS ONE OF US, AND HE IS ALL OF US will replace HE SYMBOLISES ALL AUSTRALIANS WHO'VE DIED IN WAR
I actually think Keating's statement, which is drawn from a fine speech, is an improvement on the fairly generic sentiment originally carved, and doesn't appreciably change its meaning. So I have no objection to it - replacing KNOWN UNTO GOD however would have meant changing the core sentiments of the expression, as well as breaking with history, and a common core with similar memorials in other parts of the Commonwealth.
In the end, I think the compromise is a good one - it would have been far better if it had been the original proposal.
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 his duty - 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.
The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belong 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 not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity.
It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
This Unknown Australian is not interred here to glorify war over peace; or to assert a soldier's character above a civilian's; or one race or one nation or one religion above another; or men above women; or the war in which he fought and died above any other war; or of one generation above any that has or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia.
His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained.
We have lost more than 100,000 lives, and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy.
We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and, with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore, that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his country - he might enshrine a nation's love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.
The Hon. P.J. Keating MP
Prime Minister of Australia
11th November 1993
That’s a very moving picture.
Absolutely.The US,Australia and other great nations have borne more than their share of the burden of keeping this dangerous,sometimes even *savage*,world a little safer over the last 100+ years,that's for sure.I don't know if you've ever visited the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington,or seen any of the many videos on youtube,but if not it's something that can bring a tear to the eye.I've never been there (it's on my bucket list) but the videos I've seen are very powerful indeed.And Australia's "Tomb",I'm sure,evokes equally powerful emotions...sadness and pride topping the list...for Aussies.
And to naturalman,regarding your response to my original post...yes,those words do seem very respectful and appropriately solemn and I can see why Aussies might see them as fitting for your Tomb.I don't know how things are in Australia but here in the US we long ago stopped associating gratitude and respect with the leaders of *our* "Labour" Party.It seems possible that that's not the case Down Under.