Anzac Day Address 2016

ANZAC DayLieutenant Kate Clarkson (2000)

A transcript of the Anzac Day address delivered to students on 27 April 2016 by old girl Lieutenant Kate Clarkson (2000), Troop Leader – A Squadron in the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry).

9 August 1915 — Found 150 patients lying on the ground — no equipment whatever … had no water to drink or wash.

10 August 1915 — Still no water … convoy arrived at night and used up all our private things, soap etc., tore up clothes for bandages.

11 August 1915 — Convoy arrived — about 400 — no equipment whatever … Just laid the men on the ground and gave them a drink. Very many badly shattered, nearly all stretcher cases … Tents were erected over them as quickly as possible … All we can do is feed them and dress their wounds … A good many died … It is just too awful — one could never describe the scenes — could only wish all I knew to be killed outright (Wilson, 1915).

The preceding diary extracts were taken from the Gallipoli diaries of Brisbane Girls Grammar Old Girl (1897), Matron Grace Wilson. Her contribution as part of the Australian Nursing Corps in WWI was made in the face of harsh conditions, landing as Matron in Charge on the casualty extraction island of Lemnos just hours after the major August offensive on the Gallipoli peninsula. Conditions were challenging, with extreme temperatures, basic facilities and limited access to equipment forcing them to show immense resilience and initiative. Many went as far as ripping up their uniforms and undergarments to create bandages to dress the wounds of the soldiers, at times having to go months without bathing and surviving on sparse rations. Among all this, Grace Wilson stood out as a leader and as champion for the rights of both her beloved nurses and the men she cared for. She made calm out of chaos; she knew what to fight for and what to ask for and she knew it was going to be an ongoing battle to get what her nurses needed.

Grace Wilson, through her selfless action and exceptional leadership, helped to define what now epitomises the Anzac spirit. I am an Australian soldier and a proud bearer of that Anzac tradition, as is each of you within this room today. The Anzac spirit was forged as a nation and young and old, serving or civilian, must embody it and continue the tradition.

Courage, mateship, resilience and honour are traits that we so often associate with the Anzac spirit. However, the truth is that while that spirit was forged as a nation 101 years ago on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula, as individuals you are developing and harnessing those traits right now. I am a proud old girl, thankful for the opportunities and lessons learnt within these walls, just as I’m sure Grace Wilson would have been all those years ago. You should be proud to call yourselves Grammar girls because the opportunities presented to you right now are shaping you to become extraordinary women. I didn’t realise this until long after I’d left those front gates for the last time, but reflected on it often going through my initial training in the military. I was able to accomplish things I hadn’t thought possible and was thankful for the foundations shaped by my time here at Grammar.


As humans, we fear greatly what we cannot control or do not know, and having courage is the strength to face this unknown, sometimes against great odds. The men who first stormed the beaches on 25 April 1915 knew little of what they were going into. Most had never fired a rifle, except for a few times in training; fewer still had any concept of the devastation that an artillery shell could cause. Despite this, every man stormed that beach with immense courage. Many fell where they stood in the first few waves, but those who made the safety of initial cover of grass hummocks at the bottom of the cliffs now faced a new unknown. The battle plan had failed; what was to be a simple landing and capture of some lightly defended slopes, turned into a battle against some of the best defences ever seen in war from a starting position of almost certain defeat at the bottom of steep ravines and cliff faces. Disconnected from their companies, scared and injured, the men mounted the courage to face the unknown time and time again as they scaled the cliffs, even forcing the Turkish forces to retreat for a short time before finally establishing a tenuous foothold on the cliffs of the Gallipoli peninsula. There, the Gallipoli campaign began.

Those men showed amazing courage, as have all the men and women who have served Australia in conflict since then. However, courage is not just reserved for those who face conflict. As I said earlier, each of us in this room today is charged with carrying on the Anzac spirit. Many times you will be asked to show courage for your actions while here at Grammar. It may be during a sporting final when months of hard work lead to that one culminating race or game where you do not know the outcome, when you do not know if you will win or lose but still have the courage to face that unknown and give your best for a desired result. Or it on your first day here at Grammar, walking through those gates for the first time, perhaps not knowing anyone, scared of whether or not you will fit in, but still having the courage to take that first step and start your journey as a Grammar girl. Seniors, you will need courage to face one of the greatest unknowns in your life to date when, in a few short months, you will walk through those gates for the last time into a world you have never experienced, one without routine or the security of knowing you will see your mates tomorrow at school. But have courage, because you are a Grammar girl; have faith in what you have learnt within these walls, from the mentoring you have received from some amazing scholars before you, and know that wherever the unknown may take you, you will always have your peers to call as mates.


This trait personifies the legend of the Anzac around the world. Throughout all the major conflicts in which Australia has served, mateship has been the binding trait every soldier reflects on as the reason they fought and what brought them home.

Last year, I was fortunate to spend three months training in Thailand and Malaysia with their armed forces as part of a deployment rotation to Rifle Company Butterworth. While working with the Thai army, we spent some time visiting Hellfire Pass in Northern Thailand. Hellfire Pass is a hauntingly contrasting place in Australian war history, etched with stories of terrible hardship and loss of life united with unimaginable tales of mateship forged between men in order to survive in the face of insurmountable odds. Part of the Thai–Burma Railway, Hellfire Pass and the remainder of the 415 km railway were one of the most arduous undertakings of any POW camp during WWII. Nearly 13 000 Australians worked as prisoners on the railway with over 2 500 losing their lives either at the hands of the guards or to the desperate conditions they faced. Many more would have died were it not for the mateship shared by the men and women forced to build this railway. Countless stories exist of men giving up their meagre rations to feed a mate who was ill with dysentery, helping cover a mate from a brutal beating of the Japanese guard or carrying a load for a mate when he was too weak to carry it. For the survivors of the Thai–Burma railway, mateship was the binding trait that got them through and, although their numbers dwindle each year, those that can, still make the passage to Thailand most years on Anzac Day to spend the day remembering those mates no longer with them and to share time with those still alive.

Mateship is formed from shared experience. With your classmates you share that common bond — common experience, and are forging mateship with friends that you will know and care about for many years to come. Every five years, you will come together and find yourself within a matter of minutes talking as if you were still sitting around the table at lunchtime, except now you are joking about the joys of motherhood and the demands of work instead of the upcoming formals or how much you really think Maths C is a waste of time. It will not matter how long since you last saw them or if they were part of your group, you are all Grammar girls and that is a unique mateship, one which you should cherish. Regardless of distance or time apart, that mateship will endure, and when you have hardship in your life, you will come to rely on that mateship to help you through.

Resilience and honour

From Australia’s first involvement as a nation in armed conflict during the Boer War through to the modern conflicts of East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, Australian soldiers are characterised as some of the most resilient and honourable. Despite challenging conditions, desperate odds and terrible hardship, Australian servicemen and women have persevered time and again. When there is seemingly not a way, they will find one. Their ingenuity is applauded and their ability to see humour in the darkest of situations is the backbone of their resilience. At the core of it, Australian soldiers are some of the proudest men and women you will meet and demonstrate immense physical, mental and moral resilience in order to get the job done. They give their best in times of war because they have the honour of carrying the Anzac tradition and they fiercely defend it.

As Grammar girls you demonstrate your own honour and resilience every day. Many of you in this room may have fought or be still fighting hardship in your life. But you are resilient in your resolve to overcome it. You demonstrate honour every time you put on the uniform as you honour every other Grammar girl who has gone before you. Honour is wanting to do your best because you are proud of who you are and what you stand for. By representing yourselves and this school every day as you do, you demonstrate honour. Strive to be the best you can be; be determined to put the extra effort in for an exam or a training session because that is the honourable thing to do. You don’t have to take up arms to demonstrate honour, you just have to be proud of who you are and represent it as well as you can.

Courage, mateship, resilience and honour are all traits of the Anzac spirit and tradition for which you are developing the foundations right now as you make your way as a Grammar girl. I am proud to be an Australian soldier and a Grammar old girl, as I’m sure Matron Grace Wilson and the other Grammar girls who have gone into service before me. I’m proud and honoured to have learnt the lessons and had the experiences I did while I was here. I implore you to take heart from who you are and know that you have the potential to become an extraordinary young woman.


Wilson, G. (1915). In Bassett, J. (2012). Guns and brooches: Australian Army nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War (p.46). Oxford, UK: OUP.