2021-04-28 AUSTRALIA

Marist Schools Australia Newsletter No. 6

Marist Schools Australia Newsletter No. 6 | 27 April 2021

Click here to read the 6th issue of the 2021 MSA Newsletters.
Back issues for 2021 can be found here.

So often, history comes alive by learning about a particular person. This last week we have celebrated Anzac Day and remembered the many thousands of lives affected by the conflict of war. As the marches were held last Sunday, a sea of stories, some brave, many sad and most extraordinary seemed to be floating past.

Younger Australians have a sense of the historical importance of Anzac Day, but many are not familiar with specific events and stories of our wars which help to make real the great suffering and sacrifice of so many people.

What sort of men and women offered their life for the defence of Australia? Ordinary men and women who rose to perform extraordinary deeds. One such man was a young Catholic, Ralph Honner. He was a gifted sportsman who played Premier Aussie Rules and Rugby in his early twenties in Perth. An excellent student, Ralph became a teacher, then studied and practiced law. Married, with two children when war broke out in 1939, Ralph volunteered for the AIF. He fought in North Africa, Greece and Crete as a junior officer and narrowly avoided capture after Crete fell to the Germans. Ralph returned to Australia in March 1942. For the next two years he led Australian battalions in Papua New Guinea as a Lieutenant Colonel with distinction. Ralph was awarded the Military Cross for bravery and only ceased fighting when seriously injured by a bullet that shattered his hip.

Throughout his time in the army, Ralph held firm to his Faith. He was renowned for never asking a soldier to do something that he would not do himself. Indeed his intelligence, bravery, compassion and loyalty inspired hundreds of Australian soldiers and was communicated most obviously by his actions. In the citations for his award of the Military Cross, Honner was described as having led his company with “conspicious skill and complete disregard for his personal safety”. Another citation describing Honner read “Ralph Honner is the best Company Commander I have known in this or the last war.

Throughout the campaign, he has led his men with courage, cheerfulness, calmness and skill”.

Honner’s reflections on war are enlightening. He wrote “That glory is not the exultation of war but the exultation of man sublimated in the fiery crucible of war, shining faithfullness and fortitude and gentleness and compassion elevated from all dross.”

Ralph Honner’s life was shaped by the experiences he had during the war. Physically crippled, he walked with the aid of a stick for the rest of his life. He worked for the Government in aiding returned soldiers until his retirement in 1968. Ralph also became involved in politics and was the first Catholic to be elected as President of the NSW Liberal Party. Ralph was a champion of Government aid for Catholic schools and his contribution to this cause was significant. Ralph was appointed Australia’s Ambassador to Ireland from 1968-1972.

In reading the excellent biography of Ralph Honner, “We Band of Brothers” by Peter Brune, one comes to know a man who held the values that we share here at Marist Schools Australia. His Faith was strong. His Faith sustained him through the most arduous experiences. His Faith was a gift that he passed onto his children. Two entered religious life, one became a doctor and one an officer in the Australian Army.

Ralph Honner is but one of many thousands of Australians to have put himself second to the needs of others in the most profound way. We enjoy the fruits of that sacrifice everyday and that is why each Anzac Day, we as a Nation say “We will remember them.”

Dr Frank Malloy

Click here to read the 6th issue of the 2021 MSA Newsletters.


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