Ground-breaking Ceremony for the Lemnos Remembrance Trail, Lemnos
Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Again, it is very important for Linda and me to be here today to participate in this additional event in Lemnos and in Greece that will further enhance the close ties between our two countries.
The Lemnos Remembrance Trail will be a lasting memorial in honour of the service of the 50,000 Anzacs who passed through Lemnos during the Gallipoli Campaign.
I want in particular to acknowledge the families of the Australian doctors, nurses and servicemen who served here — at the Australian Pier — during the First World War.
We remember them. We honour them. And we acknowledge the commitment of the Lemnian people each year to preserving their memory and ensuring future generations can learn about their sacrifice for our nation.
The Trail, when completed, will be an international site of historical significance and connect modern Lemnos to Australia. It commemorates the past and speaks to our present and future.
The story of the Anzacs and Lemnos is well known but perhaps not as well as it should be.
Lemnos was the final departure point for the Australian landings at Gallipoli.
Standing here today — thinking about our diggers and the 60-mile journey they were soon to embark upon, and the events that followed — it’s hard not to be moved or to become emotional.
During the Gallipoli Campaign, Lemnos served as an important rest camp for approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Australian troops.
It was also a major hospital base.
Between August and November 1915, close to 100,000 sick and wounded arrived in Lemnos to be treated or evacuated to hospitals in Egypt, Malta and England.
The conditions in which our nurses and medical staff worked were extremely challenging.
Matron Grace Wilson, from a diary entry dated 9 August 1915, wrote:
‘Arrived at Turks Head Peninsula … heat appalling.
‘Found 150 patients lying on the ground – no equipment – did best we could.
‘Have tents ourselves but no beds or mattresses. Had no water to drink or wash.’
Some 130 Australian nurses served in hospitals in Lemnos while others served on hospital ships in Mudros harbour.
Their arrival was important because they were able to bring years of professional nursing experience to bear just as the hospitals on Lemnos were being overwhelmed from the August offensive.
The contribution of our nurses and nursing to the allied war effort cannot be overstated, nor can Matron Wilson’s leadership. As Nurse Nita Selwyn Smith wrote:
‘At times I think we could not have carried on without her. She was not only a capable Matron, but what is more, a woman of understanding.
‘She saw and understood many things without having to be told — and she was very human too.’
We see in the actions of Matron Wilson and the nurses who served here the characteristics we attribute to the Anzac legacy — endurance, courage, sacrifice and mateship.
These characteristics are as relevant today as they were 108 years ago.
They are relevant in Australia and here in Greece.
They help inform who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.
The Lemnos Remembrance Trail, in its dual role as a memorial and as a means of education for younger generations and visitors to Lemnos will be a place to reflect on the service and losses that were experienced during the Gallipoli Campaign and to better comprehend the deeds of our forefathers.
It will also serve as a bridge to understanding and appreciating the service of our modern veterans and men and women in uniform.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge:
- The Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee (in Melbourne, Australia) and the Prefecture of the Northern Aegean who instigated the project
- The Greek Government and the Ministry of National Defence
- The Australian Government and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- Ms Elizabeth Kaydos (who is here today) — who has uncovered evidence of Australian servicemen who served on the island in World War I giving their sons the middle name, Lemnos.
It is thanks to your collective passion and determination to preserve the memory of those who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign that future generations will be able to learn about their sacrifices for our nation.
The Lemnos Remembrance Trail will be the very embodiment of ‘Lest we forget’.