ANZAC DAY

Last week was a very big one for Australia and for the Embassy

As you’ll recall, Prime Minister Abbott and Chancellor Merkel announced earlier in the month the details of the Advisory Group they’d decided to establish to recommend to them ways of strengthening our bilateral relationship into the future. Following that announcement, both the German and Australian sides of the Advisory group held their first meetings on 20 and 22 April respectively to begin consideration of this very significant task. The two Co-Chairs, Staatsministerin Maria Böhmer from the Foreign Office and the Australian Finance Minister, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, led the discussion at both events and have been in touch to compare notes since. As earlier also announced, we expect the first joint meeting of the Advisory Group to take place in July in Berlin. I can’t wait: these are very exciting times for Australian-German relations!

And two very senior Australian Ministers visited Germany last week too. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in Berlin on 21-22 April and held discussions with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, with Professor Böhmer and with Interior Ministry State Secretary Emily Haber. It was Ms Bishop’s first visit to Berlin as Foreign Minister. Then, shortly after she left, the Australian Defence Minister, the Hon Kevin Andrews, arrived for discussions on 22 April with German Defence Minister von der Leyen. His visit, the first by an Australian Defence Minister for some time, and the visit by Foreign Minister Bishop covered a range of issues which showed just how close our views are in the foreign policy, strategic and defence areas and how much we have to offer each other as partners. Defence Minister Andrews also visited Kiel on 23 April during his time in Germany.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the joint press conference. They are standing in front of the Australian, European and German flag.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Berlin

German Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen and Australian Defence Minister Andrews passing by the guard battalion at the Ministry of Defence

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Australian Defence Minister Andrews

The week culminated in a massively important event for Australia, the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915. We chose to hold the service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf near Berlin, where 20 young Australians and three young New Zealanders are buried. These include three original ANZACs, Albert Elliott, Benjamin Gannaway and Otto Siefken. So it was a very significant way of paying our personal respects to each of them and to their friends and colleagues buried at Stahnsdorf. There are, we think, 21 Australian ANZACs buried in Germany and I’ll publish the list of these and where their graves are located shortly. Please do remember them in this very special year, as did the over 200 people who attended the Stahnsdorf service. Lest we forget.

(See names of Gallipoli Veterans buried in Germany below)

Ambassador Ritchie giving a speech at theCommonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf. The Ambassador stands while guests are seated in fron of him an listining to him speaking.

At the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery in Stahnsdorf

A picture of many wreath laying at a memorial at the cemetry.

Wreath ceremony

Finally, I wanted to mention the concert played in Berlin on the night of ANZAC Day by the World Doctors Orchestra, which I also attended. An excellent Australian company, Sonic Healthcare, very active in Germany, sponsored the orchestra, meaning that the proceeds of the concert could go to needy people in Africa. Just another way in which Australians are playing their part in helping others in the world less well off than we are. A wonderful initiative and, in addition to being terrific doctors, the members of the orchestra proved to an almost sell-out crowd in Berlin that they are also superb musicians.

GALLIPOLI VETERANS BURIED IN GERMANY

Albert ELLIOTT 1131 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Benjamin Joseph GANNAWAY 903 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Otto John SIEFKEN 354 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Algar Hampton ALTHORP 1301 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
John Hosking ARGALL 1719 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Reginald Henry DABB 393 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Thomas HENSON 3172 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
John James HINDLEY 2747 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
James Clarence O’NEILL 140 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Edwin Albert PEDGRIFT 1727 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Thomas James HANN 1951 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Terence SWEENEY 1615 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Daniel Thomas TUDOR 1365 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Andrew Carnegie Booth FAIRWEATHER  1291 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
Ernest Septimus HURMAN 3351 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
Alexander George McARTHUR 1984 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
William Henry HURRELL 1961* – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
Henry Hans PETERSEN 142 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL – Is showing on the CWGC site as coming from the United Kingdom.
Frederick William Adolphus RAMSEYER 486 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
William John SMITH 233 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
Arthur Herbert KENNEDY (officer; no service no.) – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL

An exciting month ahead!

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter. In addition, of course, to it being a very important religious festival, Australians also enjoy the Easter break and Aussie children can’t wait until the Easter Bunny – or, sometimes in Australia, the Easter Bilby (have a look on the internet to see a Bilby) – turns up on Easter Sunday after a very long journey. This year the Easter Bunny/Bilby even gave me a chocolate koala!

I just wanted to mention three more serious things!

Firstly, when Chancellor Merkel visited Australia in November 2014 for the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane, she also made a short but highly successful bilateral visit to Sydney, where she held talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other senior ministers. During those discussions, the two leaders agreed to establish a joint Advisory Group to look at ways of strengthening, in all areas, the already warm relationship between Australia and Germany. Today (8 April), both leaders announced, in Canberra and Berlin, the co-Chairs and members of that group. You can see the full text of the Australian announcement here. Both the Australian and German members of the group are very distinguished and will bring a lot of expertise to the group’s work. On the Australian side, the co-Chair of the group will be the Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, and on the German side, the co-Chair will be the Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Professor Maria Böhmer. The group will start its work immediately and will report to both leaders by the end of this year. The first full joint meeting of the group is expected to take place in July in Berlin. I’m delighted to have been included among the Australian members, as has my counterpart in Canberra, Christoph Müller, on the German side.

Chancellor Merkel petting a koala on the Australian Prime Minister's arms during the G 20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November 2014.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chancellor Merkel during the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November 2014

Secondly, I am truly delighted to have the chance to see the world famous Sydney Dance Company at the Movimentos festival in Wolfsburg this coming weekend, from 10-12 April, performing their much-awarded work, “2 One Another”. This is, in fact, the European premiere of “2 One Another”. The company is a special favourite of mine and my wife and I used to be regular subscribers to their performances when we lived in Australia. If you get the chance, don’t miss them! See you there!

Finally, I know that many Australians – and New Zealanders – will be thinking about how to mark the forthcoming very special centenary commemoration of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The landings at what is now known as ANZAC Cove are, of course, a fundamentally important part of Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) path to nationhood and marking appropriately the 100 years since the landings will be a very significant occasion for us all. The Australian Embassy website contains details of this year’s ANZAC Day service in Berlin, which will be held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf, just on the outskirts of the city, beginning at 0900 on 25 April. Both Australian and New Zealand servicemen from the First World War have found their final rest at the cemetery in Stahnsdorf and, yes, this includes three original ANZACs. Please do come along to help us remember them and to honour their sacrifice. If you are planning to come – and I hope you all do – please do register your likely attendance at RSVP-Berlin@dfat.gov.au well before the service. In a forthcoming blog post, I’ll try to provide a list of Australian First World War soldiers who we know are buried in Germany, including other original ANZACs (and my apologies if we miss any). If you can’t make it to the service in Berlin, perhaps a really worthy thing to do would be to remember those others too, at any time during the year and in the places where they are buried in Germany.

Ambassador Ritchie at the wreath ceremony at the Anzac Day service in 2014

The ANZAC Day service in 2014