Dignitaries gather for Remembrance Day service outside War Memorial

At 11am as the last post ceased to ring out the assembled crowd drew completely silent.

Somewhat incredibly neither a phone nor a child broke the silence, simply the song of native birds.

As the clouds parted to welcome the bright sunshine, thousands gathered outside The Australian War Memorial to pay their respects to fallen members of our defence force and honour those still serving.

The Australian Federation Guard accompanied by the Royal Military College Band performed an official welcome for The Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

The commemorative address was delivered by Mr Cormann who honoured those that fought in the country of his birth on the 100th anniversary of Passchendaele.

He likened the the horrors of war those men and women faced to a Gippsland bushfire and spoke of another Belgian-born Australian who returned to Europe as part of the Australian forces.

“In the country of my birth, Australians marched to defend and to die for the land of my family,” Mr Cormann said.

“The people of Belgium never forgot those who fought for them, they became their sons.

“We must ensure the values and principles they fought to protect are not eroded.”

Wreaths were then laid by the Governor-General, Mr Cormann, Dr Brendan Nelson, Senator Katy Gallagher, High court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel plus a number of other dignitaries from around Australia and the world.

One member of the crowd was Robert ‘Big Lou’ Pares from Brisbane, a former Lieutenant in the Australian Navy, who saw active service in Malaysia, Vietnam and other parts of Asia.

Mr Pares was in Canberra to meet roughly 60 of his once 240-strong naval regiment who first met when they signed up as Boy Seamen in 1964. Along with remembering lost mates Mr Pares said Remembrance Day was a celebration of those relationships forged in war.

“When you’re in Vietnam and things are getting hectic you rely on your mates and they never let you down,” Mr Pares said.

“The ones that don’t come home, we owe it to them to say thanks and we won’t forget you.

“I’ve travelled a lot around the world and I’m yet to find anywhere better than Australia.

“That’s come at a cost and that’s what today is all about.”

Someone who shared that sentiment was Michael Stevenson, a retired police officer from Belconnen, who bore the medals of his ancestors including a Victoria Cross awarded to his great-uncle Patrick Bugden.

Mr Stevenson said that Bugden’s heroics to save his wounded mates at the Battle of Polygon Wood was a constant source of pride for his family. He attends every ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services to respect not only his forebears but all those that have served Australia.

Looking down ANZAC Parade towards Parliament House the dignitaries could not have missed the silent protest of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War who spelled out ‘no more war’ with placards.

Vice-president of the group Dr Sue Wareham said their presence was not intended to disrespect any of the fallen soldiers but was intended to honour them in ways the official services do not.

“Remembrance Day is a day to learn the lessons of the past, so we don’t keep making the same mistakes,” Dr Wareham said.

“Current government policies are preparing us for endless warfare, we need to do all we can to prevent further war.”

The service ended with the official party laying wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier and the public being able to pay their respects at the Wall of Remembrance.