David Cameron gave a speech at the Australian War Memorial Museum commemorating the First World War and celebrating our armed services.
Well, thank you ladies and gentlemen and thank you Brendan for that welcome, and thank you Tony and Bill for those moving words. It is absolutely wonderful and an honour for me to be in this remarkable museum and to have been able to pay my respects at the Tomb of your Unknown Soldier.
And frankly, what is there more fitting when we think about the relationship between Britain and Australia and all we’ve done together than to speak in the shadow of this extraordinary Lancaster Bomber, a bomber that helped to protect my country but flown by Australians in the most dangerous of circumstances. And it’s worth remembering what Winston Churchill said to the people who served in Bomber Command. He said, “Of course the fighters can keep us safe at home, but it will be the bombers that win us the war.”
And this is an extraordinary museum, a wonderful place. You’ve created something quite unique here in your country. And I think it’s so important that 100 years on from the First World War we think about why these commemorations matter so much, and what they mean to people today who have no experience of the events which we commemorate. And I think there are 3 things that I want to say about that.
First World War
First is, of course, we remember the First World War because of the horrific slaughter, the scale of what happened. We also remember because those who went off to fight believed – and I think rightly – that they were fighting in a just cause to prevent the domination of the European continent. They were fighting in the cause of liberty. But I think we also remember it because that First World War so shaped the world in which we live today, and perhaps particularly here in Australia, it shaped the development of your extraordinary and successful country.
Celebrating the values of our armed services
But I believe there’s a second reason why museums like this, why commemorations like the ones we’ve had this year, are so important for our countries. And it’s that we need to do more to celebrate and to hold up the values that our armed services live by every day of the year. Frankly, they are values that as countries we need more of; values of comradeship, of service above self, of working for others, of what in Australia you call so brilliantly mate-ship that was born in that First World War. These are values at the heart of our armed services, but values our countries need today.
Britain and Australia’s partnership
Third, I think we remember because it helps us to recall the extraordinary partnership between Britain and Australia. We have fought in so many theatres of war together – and I mentioned these in my speech to the Australian Parliament – in Gallipoli, where relatives of mine fought alongside relatives of yours. But also not just the First World War, the Second World War and then onwards in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq; so many times when the call has come, our countries have stood together.
Whenever I take visitors in Number 10 – Number 10 Downing Street in London – when I take them into the Cabinet room, I always point to the Prime Minister’s chair. And I always say that when I sit there, I think of those extraordinary 5 days in May 1940 when Britain had to decide whether to fight on alone against Hitler when the rest of Europe had been overrun. And I think of that vital decision that Winston Churchill made that really saved humanity in so many ways, and I always say that that was a decision and that was a fight when Britain was on her own.
But being here in Australia reminds me that that’s not the case, because you were always by our side. You were always fighting with us even in that, the darkest of times. And that perhaps sums up the strength, the durability and the power of this extraordinary relationship. The Digger and the Tommy have fought together in so many theatres and always in a just cause, on the side of right and freedom. I’m sure they will be called on to do so again, and I’m sure like all those people we commemorate and think of today, they’ll do it with courage, with bravery and with huge ability.
So we should be proud of our armed services, proud of our veterans, proud of all those who’ve given their lives in the service of others so that we can live in freedom. And it’s an enormous honour to share those thoughts with you and to be with you here today at this wonderful museum. And it only remains for me to ask you to rise to your feet and to drink a toast: to Her Majesty the Queen, and the people of Australia.