Speech of Mr Christophe Penot, Ambassador of France to Australia, at Armistice centenary event
Here is the full text of the speech delivered by Mr Christophe Penot, Ambassador of France to Australia, at the commemorative event in Canberra on the occasion of the centenary of Armistice.
” Honorable Minister,
Chief of Army,
Distinguished guests and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen
It was one hundred years ago. It took only three days of talks before the armistice was signed in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègnes. The last shot was fired at 11am on the same day but more than 10.000 further casualties occurred on the last day of the war, some of them only minutes before the cease fire. Fighting continued in many places until 1919. Many died in later years as a consequence of their injuries or grief.
Australia paid a very high price. Let me quote what our Prime minister said in Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac day “We shall never forget that one hundred years ago, a young and brave nation on the other side of the world made history while writing our history”.
Today we pay tribute to those who have given their lives to preserve our freedom and we remember their sacrifice.
One hundred years ago, after four years of darkness voices from all around the world called for a new world order based on international cooperation and dialogue. The League of Nations represented this vision, but we failed collectively to avoid a second global conflict and further wars. Today, as President Macron and other world leaders gather in Paris to commemorate the armistice and launch a three days international Peace Forum, our beliefs and our values are threatened again.
Let us remember that Peace is not just the suspension of war. Let us remember that to commemorate the past means also taking responsibility for the present.
Let us remember that in 2018 three French soldiers lost their lives in operations in Mali and in Irak : Adjudant Emilien MOUGIN, Maréchal des Logis Thimoté DERNONCOURT, Caporal Bogusz POCHYLSKI. Morts pour la France.
I shall now read the message of President Macron : “Today in France people are gathered among their communities, in front of memorials, to pay tribute and express gratitude to all those who defended us yesterday and also protect us today, with the sacrifice of their lives. Today, we remember our “Poilus”, who died for France. Our civilians, many of whom have also lost their lives.
Our soldiers forever marked in their flesh and soul. Our villages destroyed, our cities devastated. We also remember the suffering and honor of all those who left their land and came from Africa, the Pacific and America to the soil of France that they had never seen before and yet defended so courageously.
We remember the suffering and honor of the ten million fighters from all countries who were sent into these terrible battles.
We are also united today in the awareness of our history and the refusal that it should repeat itself. For the past century we have learned about the great precariousness of peace.
We know that the strength of nationalism and totalitarianism can carry off democracies and put the very idea of civilization in jeopardy. We know how fast the multilateral order could collapse.
We know that the united Europe which was created around the reconciliation between France and Germany is a construction more fragile than ever.
To be vigilant : this is the lesson we can draw from the memory of the dreadful massacre of the Great War. This is how we can be worthy of the memory of those who gave their lives one century ago. This is how we can be worthy of the sacrifice of those who enabled us to stand today, united, as a free people. “
Lest we forget !”
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