Piers Festival Whittaker Walk


Each Anzac Day and Remembrance Day we say the words We Will Remember them and Lest We Forget.

I like to think when I walk past this Cenotaph and the Port Melbourne Piers that what we remember – and what we should never forget – was what those who fought and died believed and what they fought for back in Australia.

So today let us remember some remarkably brave men – men who not only served their country but also fought for jobs and the rights of workers. I  will read you their names and the sacrifices they made for us.

Let us remember Alan Whittaker, who enlisted in 1914, and landed at Gallipoli on April 25 1914. He was wounded on that first morning spent 80 days in hospital and arrived back in Australia where he was invalided out of the Army. On November 2 1928 he was shot again,  and died 86 years ago tomorrow.

Let us remember Alan’s brother, Percy, who enlisted in 1915, served at Gallipoli and then in France where he was wounded three times. He was at the docks when his brother was fatally shot.

Let us remember Cecil Whittaker, Alan’s only other brother who was killed in the trenches in France on 25 April 1918 and is buried in France.

Let us remember James Williams who enlisted in 1918, was stationed in England in safety as the war ended, but was wounded on November 2 1928 defending his right to work and belong to a union.

Let us remember William John Lowrie who was also with the workers on that November day and saw Alan Whittaker shot. William John Lowrie, whose military career was researched by Paddy Garrity along with that of the others we honour today, knew what it was like to be shot at having fought in the trenches in Belgium and France so bravely he was promoted to Sergeant and won the Military Medal.

Let us remember James George Charles Hannam, known by his professional name as a champion cyclist – James Nagel – who served in France and was shot on November 2 1918.

And also let us remember all the other veterans who were strong and proud trade unionists. Veterans such as Alec Campbell who, before he died, was the last Australian Gallipoli survivor. Alex was a strong trade unionist, a socialist, a campaigner for peace and a republican. He was President of the Australian Rail Union, Launceston TLC President and was part of the union which amalgamated to form the CFMEU. He was held up as a model for Australians – not because of what he believed in – but because he was a Gallipoli veteran.

But near the end of his life, when the Howard Government was planning a State funeral for him, he said: “I wonder if Howard would give me a State funeral if he knew what I really stood for.”

So when we say: we will remember Alan Whittaker, Percy Whittaker, Cecil Whittaker, Jim Nagel, James Williams,William John Lowrie and Alec Campbell – we should also say – lest we forget what they stood for.