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23 April, 2021

EDITORIAL: Lest we forget

Each year we hear the immortal words ‘Lest we forget’, as we commemorate ANZAC Day. We utter these words, pause to reflect and we make a solemn pledge to never take for granted the sacrifice made by all who serve.

By Peter McCullagh

Where does the phrase come from and why is it used today? Victorian poet Rudyard Kipling first used the line in his poem titled Recessional. This 5 stanza poem was composed in the late 1800s and used to describe the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Did the poem reflect upon a need to remember those who served? Unfortunately, not. The poem reflected upon the might of the British and Commonwealth Empire of the age, plus a reference to the book of Deuteronomy 6:12 “Then lest we forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt.”

So how did the line end up as a solemn pledge on ANZAC Day?

The line is added almost as if it is actually part of the ode, “For the Fallen’ authored by Laurence Binyons.

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 use of Lest We Forget predates the First World War. There are Boer War Memorials bearing this inscription.

In the full scheme of things, the actual origin of the line is truly not relevant. What is important is the sentiment it conveys, the feeling of urgency and the commitment embodied within the line.

We need to remember the sacrifice made by those who served. The commitment they have made to ensure we have, and can enjoy, what we have today.

We are not glorifying war on ANZAC Day, we are taking a moment from our life and reflecting upon those who served. From our earliest years as a fledgling nation, we have answered the call. Black and white, men and women, there has never been a distinction.

Our veterans have served in wars, peacekeeping operations, ‘conflicts’ and also served as members of our forces in times of peace.

What we take for granted today has come about through sacrifice. The sacrifice made by those who have indeed headed off to serve and defend. Also bear in mind the sacrifice made by those who remained behind. The wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children.

The pain of not knowing, the hardships faced and fear and dread of a knock at their door.

The spirit of the ANZACs will live forever. We cannot afford to forget the sacrifices made, the strength shown in the face of adversity, perseverance, mateship, and overall a  sense of fairness.

This spirit is what we should never forget. What it means to serve and what it means to all who benefited from their service.

I for one salute and thank you.

‘Lest we forget.’


Peter McCullagh


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