On the 11th of November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after four years of continuous warfare. With their armies retreating and close to collapse, German leaders signed an Armistice, bringing to an end the First World War.
From the summer of 1918, the five divisions of the Australian Corps had been at the forefront of the allied advance to victory.
Beginning with their stunning success at the battle of Hamel in July, they helped to turn the tide of the war at Amiens in August, followed by the capture of Mont St Quentin and Pèronne, and the breaching of German defences at the Hindenburg Line in September.
By early October the exhausted Australians were withdrawn from battle. They had achieved a fighting reputation out of proportion to their numbers, but victory had come at a heavy cost. They suffered almost 48,000 casualties during 1918, including more than 12,000 dead.
In the four years of the war more than 330,000 Australians had served overseas, and more than 60,000 of them had died. The social effects of these losses cast a long shadow over the postwar decades.
Each year on November 11, Australians observe one minute’s silence at 11am, in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts. The origins of this tradition were born from a soldiers dying wish to be remembered.
Charles Bean landed with the Australian troops on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. He stayed with them at the front through the entire war, refusing evacuation when he was wounded. At Pozieres the following year he was witness to 23,000 Australian casualties in just six weeks. A dying Australian asked him, “will they remember me in Australia?"
Now 102 years later, Australians still observe one minute's silence at 11 am on the 11th of November to pay tribute to the men and women who have served and are still serving in our defence forces and remember those who have died or suffered in conflicts, wars and peacekeeping operations.
Lest we forget.