A dawn service to commemorate Anzac Day was held at the Brunei-Australia Memorial at Muara Beach yesterday, honouring Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
Around 90 military personnel and civilians gathered at 6am to participate in the annual tradition, including Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Major General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sahat, members of the Diplomatic Corps and Ministry of Defence (MinDef) officials.
High Commissioner of Australia to Brunei Darussalam Tiffany McDonald in her address said, the event aims to pay tribute to all involved who had made personal sacrifices in maintaining and keeping peace.
“Anzac Day originally commemorated the Australian and New Zealand forces that landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915. The first Anzac Day was in 1919. As we continue to deal with the impacts of COVID, you’ll be interested to know that for the first Anzac Day — there were no city marches or parades for the returning veterans, because the world was battling the Spanish flu pandemic,” she said.
“We are not here to glorify war. But instead to acknowledge the service and the sacrifice made by those who have the courage to defend our peace, even when that means putting their lives on the line,” she added.
In Brunei Darussalam, she said, “Our annual Anzac Day dawn service is held at Muara Beach – a fitting tribute that we meet on the site where Australian troops landed on June 10, 1945, as part of allied efforts to liberate Borneo, including Brunei.”
Code named ‘Oboe’, the Australian High Commissioner recalled the history of the landing in Brunei as part of a series of major Australian amphibious operations carried out during 1945.
She said, “The Oboe operations were among the largest and most complex conducted by the Australians during the war. Australian warships and aircraft played vital roles in supporting the Australian ground forces and worked closely with their American counterparts.”
The first Oboe operation began on May 1, 1945 when a brigade from the veteran Australian 9th Division, the famous ‘Rats of Tobruk’, landed on Tarakan Island, off the east coast of Borneo. The airfields at Tarakan were to be used to support the other Allied operations on Borneo.
On June 10, the rest of the 9th Division, she said “With other troops and air force personnel, landed at Brunei and Labuan after a heavy air and naval bombardment. The Australian troops cleared the harbour and moved inland, into Brunei and Sarawak, securing the area’s natural resources of oil and rubber. During three weeks of operations in north Borneo, 114 Australians were killed, and over 220 were wounded.
“One hundred and fourteen men would not have the opportunity to see the benefits of the peace for which they fought. A number too high – more than all who are gathered here today. But that number would have been more if it not been for the support provided to the Australian Services Reconnaissance Department by the Dayaks and indigenous populations in the months leading up to the Oboe operations, whose reconnaissance efforts provided vital support to the planning and implementation of the Oboe operations. This was an early example of the people of Borneo and Australia collaborating in support of peace.
“Australians were busy caring for the newly liberated population; helping to re-establish civil administration and to repair war damaged infrastructure. In two weeks, Australian medical personnel treated over 7,500 patients while army engineers repaired roads, bridges, and buildings.”
She added, “If we are to live in a rules-based international order where we do not accept that coercion and force dictate the outcomes of disputes; if we choose a world where values and principles are worth defending, and the rights of nations to enjoy prosperity and harmony under international law are paramount; then we have no choice but to have the courage to stand up, step forward, share the burden of collective security, regional stability, so that peace is maintained.”
The Australian High Commissioner believes that service is a powerful thing. The courage to serve for peace is immensely powerful. “The courage to ensure our peace is defended is one that Australia is committed to doing, in partnership with our friends in the region. And for that symbolism, there is not greater place to reflect than on the shores of Muara Beach”, she added.
“Standing shoulder to shoulder with our Bruneian colleagues and our friends – high commissioners and ambassadors who represent countries that also work tirelessly to defend the peace and prosperity we enjoy today and working together to ensure a strong, vibrant and prosperous neighbourhood.”
The dawn service included readings by government and military officials from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Personnel from the second battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles mounted the Catafalque Party (ceremonial guard), supported by the RBAF Gurkha Reserve Unit.
The event continued with the laying of wreath in remembrance of the fallen by the minister, the Australian High Commissioner and other members of the Diplomatic Corps.