Brigadier Andy Harrison

UK Defence Advisor to Australia

Guest blogger for UK in Australia

Part of UK in Australia

2nd August 2018 Canberra, Australia

100 years, 100 reasons why Armistice matters

Note: This article originally published in The Australian newspaper on 3rd August 2018.

In exactly 100 days, the world will pause to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice. This historic agreement brought an end to the slaughter of World War I. The anniversary of these six signatures in a railway carriage in Compiegne, France, remains deeply relevant.

It matters because it serves as a reminder of the courage of the millions of young men and women who left home to risk all in the defence of their lands and values. In a remarkable coincidence, precisely 100 of those Australians have now been awarded the Victoria Cross or the Victoria Cross for Australia. These are the highest national awards for gallantry in the face of the enemy. Of those 100, only four remain alive: Keith Payne, Mark Donaldson, Ben Roberts-Smith and Daniel Keighran. In recognition of their courage, today via Twitter we will launch a daily account of each of those Australian heroes (use #100days100heroes to follow along) — 100 personal stories, one for each day between now and November 11.

The anniversary matters because the occasion is wholly appropriate to commemorate the sacrifice of those who never returned home.

More than 102,000 names are inscribed under the sandstone cloisters of the stunning Australian War Memorial in Canberra. In a previous job I was responsible for the repatriation of 113 deceased UK service personnel, so I know all too well the family devastation that each of those names represents.

Every year the words “lest we forget” mournfully resonate at war memorials across the length and breadth of Australia. The language may be anachronistic but the message is clear: we must remember them.

Finally, it matters because the anniversary provides an opportunity to work towards enduring peace. It is a call to end the barbarity of war. At the impressive “Digger Day” in Nowra last Saturday I had the privilege to listen to three Victoria Cross recipients explaining in chilling detail the human cost of war. No combat-experienced soldier will ever countenance the glamorisation of our brutal trade. We must redouble our efforts to seek peace.

On the 100th anniversary, the Governor-General, himself a decorated combat veteran, will preside over the remembrance ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. On the eve of that momentous anniversary, Britain will host an event to recognise the courage and sacrifice of all our Australian friends and allies.

And perhaps best of all, it will allow us to hope for a more peaceful future.