11 August 2017
From the High Commissioner's Desk - We will remember them.
This week we commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal. The events which took place over 7-9 August, 1942 changed this region forever. It saw the turning of the tide of the Pacific theatre of World War Two and cemented the friendship between Australia, the US and the Solomon Islands. For Australians we remember in particular the loss of HMAS Canberra and the loss of 84 crew who perished with her on 9 August, 1942. We were privileged to have with us Mr Bill Quinn, who watched the Canberra sink from HMAS Australia. He lost many mates.
Of all the speeches, memories and stories heard this week the following familiar verse, with Mr Quinn in our presence, rings truest with me:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
The dedication of the Bloody Ridge National Park and the announcement of an annual Public Holiday to the fallen will ensure that they will be remembered. I congratulate the Solomon Islands Government on these important achievements.
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific announced in Honiara this week that the Australian Government will support the ongoing remembrance of our fallen with expert technical support.
Amidst the wreaths, speeches, ceremonies and uniforms I reflected on why it is that we celebrate our losses? I would like to think that we do it to make us humble. To allow us to reflect on the freedoms and opportunities we have today by comparing them to darker periods where these ideals were unattainable.
Against the backdrop of Solomon Islands’ more recent history, this last sentiment resonates. Solomon Islands has been through trying times, where the forgiveness of former enemies is a key to future success. The Japanese who graciously attended multiple ceremonies where their forces suffered gravely demonstrate that a foe may one day be a friend.
In closing, I want to thank the Solomon Islands Government and the hard work of the US Government, in particular its representative, Lady Keithie Saunders, and the joint efforts of the Australian, New Zealand and US defence forces for their excellent work in ensuring that the tributes made to our fallen were fitting.