Kyle Thompson | Principal
Below is Mr Thompson’s speech as he delivered it, at our College ANZAC Dawn Service this morning, Friday 23rd April 2021
Sunday marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. Like hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, who will gather at memorials in cities, suburbs and towns across Australia, we have come here to commemorate one of the most significant events in our national calendar.
In recent years some commentators have expressed amazement at the fact that the observance of ANZAC day continues to draw record crowds. Even last year, in the face of a world pandemic, Australians found a way to honour this day. Those who are surprised by this fact show that they understand very little about our national character and the way in which it comes to affect all who settle in this country, even those who have lived here for a short period of time.
For younger generations, it is sometimes difficult to understand why it is with gratitude that we should remember, but we have enjoyed the benefits of the peace and easy existence, which was purchased at the cost of many lives.
Few of us have ever had to risk everything ourselves, or chance our loved ones to the dangers of war. But, for older generations of Australians, remembering such things is easier. War and death came far too frequently into their lives as, in the past, the men and women of our armed forces saw active service in places such as Belgium, Borneo, France, Korea, Malaya, the Middle East, New Guinea, Palestine, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Today, a new generation of our soldiers, airmen and sailors are serving in troubled locations, including Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, Egypt, Iraq, the Middle East, Sudan and the Solomon Islands.
It is now a long standing tradition that on ANZAC Day we all pause to remember those that offered up their life in the defence of their nation and community, which is the greatest contribution any citizen can make. This tradition is as relevant today as it was when our troops landed on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915.
Today we recall those Australians that have died or been injured in recent years on operations overseas and within Australia to protect Australia and its national interests. There is something very Australian in coming together for such a cause. As we have over recent years with numerous natural disasters. Our natural disposition is to stick together in adversity and support each other. I like to think that this flows from the deepest springs of our national character and a belief that happiness is the right of all people in this country.
Our service today requires students to learn and think deeply about, not only the ANZAC story and spirit, but also the specific lives of one of our own 42 fallen in World War 2, Warrant Officer William Emerson Gilmore RAAF, who was known as Emerson by the people close to him. It must be noted that in the late Mr Basil Shaw’s chronicling of the history of the first 74 years of our College, that, of the 746 boys enrolled at the College between 1919 and the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, 326 or 44% enlisted. Such a disproportionate enlistment record speaks volumes for the values of the College and our sense of community, pride and support for each other. These characteristics and our commitment to our values is still strong today.
The 31st of March this year was the Royal Australian Air Force’s Centenary. You will note that this morning we are flying the Air Force flag in respect of this recent anniversary.
SCOTS PGC College, a relatively small secondary college on the Darling Downs has created a unique record with the Australian Defence Force and indeed the Royal Australian Air Force.
Of the 326 enlistments from Scots College in World War 2, 42 former students lost their lives in battle, and thus became a College legend known as the “Magnificent 42”. Of these 42 heroes listed on the College’s Roll of Honour, 35 of these 42, enlisted into the RAAF, with 34 aircrew and 1 ground staff.
There are possibly many other schools across the nation who have similar honour boards, but it is rather unique that a small school totalling around one hundred students in 1942, could produce the number of RAAF aircrew who made the Supreme Sacrifice in World War 2.
The Darling Downs region did produce other distinguished Air Force personnel, but just what was it that compelled the young men of Scots to answer the call?
Our College continues to be a place in which young men and women are inspired to seek out careers in active service of their country and of equal importance, seek to produce people of substance and worth, prepared to work towards making our community, our world, a better place.
Future generations need to be reminded that happiness and security has a price. For surely if happiness is the product of freedom, then freedom is the reward of courage.
We should be grateful to those that have helped preserve our nation and way of life through their sacrifice. In doing so, we keep bright the memory of those lives. It is in the remembrance of these things that communities across the nation come together on a most special day, ANZAC Day.
Lest We Forget