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Centenary of Armistice Day

15 November 2018

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation) (19:21): In November 1918, stretcher-bearer Langford Colley-Priest wrote home to his parents in Sydney:

On Monday morning the 11th …at 11 a.m. hostilities ceased for the first time in four years on the western front … The end of this awful slaughter and bloodshed is at hand … I can just imagine the people in Australia nearly going crazy, with joy, when they heard of the news.

For four years and three months the war had raged through Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific. Australians could finally look forward to a Christmas with peace on earth. The Allies were victorious, but the nation had paid a heavy price. From a population of fewer than five million, almost 417,000 men enlisted, more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. Last Sunday the Hornsby RSL Pipes and Drums Band played in honour of all who did their duty and in solemn remembrance of the fallen and the wounded. They honoured the sacrifice of all Hornsby families for whom the Armistice brought joy suffused with grief.

The Smith family ran a bakery near where the Hornsby Inn now stands. All their customers knew that the two eldest brothers, Len and Stanley, had enlisted. Len was a railway signalman and Stanley was a clerk. Sapper Stanley Smith of the 2nd Australian Division Signals Company was killed in action in France, dying of his wounds on 29 June 1916. Just a few weeks after his brother's death, Private Leonard Smith of the First Australian Field Ambulance, who was known to his family as Len, was killed in the Battle of Pozieres.

Another Hornsby family, the Somervilles, ran the produce store on Jersey Street. They sent their sons, Robert and Charles, to war. Robert served at Gallipoli. Charles was the rascally larrikin boy on whom the cartoon character Ginger Meggs was based. Grown up and tempered by war, Driver Charles Somerville served on the gun that officially fired the last shot at the Germans near Ypres in Belgium. Many of their mates perished but both Somerville boys came home.

After serving on the Western Front, Charles Somerville would have been forgiven for thinking he had done his bit and that his service to his country was at an end. Instead, he stood for election to Hornsby council and served for a record 33 terms. In 1921 he was elected president of the Hornsby RSL Branch. His ongoing service to the community was recognised last Sunday. In 1923 when the Hornsby Cenotaph was dedicated, Charles Somerville honoured Private Smith and Sapper Smith as well as the other 59 men from the Hornsby shire who enlisted but never came home. Two families, two sets of brothers, among the hundreds of men from Hornsby and the district who answered their country's call.

In the heart of the community they loved, we honour all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of Australia. With sadness, we acknowledge the suffering of the widows and orphans, the families bereft. We grieve for those who have borne the scars of their service on their bodies and in their minds, and we salute the nurses, whose service to the wounded was beyond all praise. We pay solemn tribute to the 2,000 pipers and drummers killed in the Great War, and with grateful hearts we acknowledge the servicemen who came home from the war and, like Charles Somerville, dedicated their lives to building the Hornsby we know and love today.

On the eve of the landing at Gallipoli, at the very start of Australia's war, Private Len Smith wrote of his determination to worthily uphold the reputation of the district. On the centenary of the end of the war, we renew our determination to be worthy of his courage and his sacrifice. As the strains ofWhen the Battle's O'er ring out, here at home and around the world, we rededicate ourselves to making a real and lasting use of the peace for which so many sacrificed so much. On this 100th anniversary of the Armistice, we promise, for 100 years of tomorrows, that we will remember them. Lest we forget.