List of Australian Military Quotes | The Principles of War Podcast

Here is a short list of some of the best quotes Australian military quotes from soldiers, sailors and airmen.  I am crowdsourcing the list, so please add your favorite in the comments.

“We’re not here to take it, we’re here to give it.”   LT GEN Leslie Morshead.  On reading a British Propaganda article about the defence of Tobruk entitled “Tobrukl can take it!”

Remember – it is not the man with the gun that gets shot; it’s the rabbit that is running away’ LT GEN Blamey addressing 21st BDE at Koitaki Plantation, during his infamous ‘Rabbits’ speech.  LT COL Carlyon, OBE, who served as Blamey’s ADC wrote, “I was there when those fine soldiers formed up, not far from what had been the start-line for their thrust against the enemy. New Guinea’s stormy temperatures being what they are, it may seem absurd for me to say that I was in a cold sweat. Standing beside the small platform from which Blamey was to address the troops, I realised that he was in a most aggressive mood. He was soon expressing this in harsh words. He told the men that they had been defeated, that he had been defeated, and Australia had been defeated. He said this was simply not good enough. Every soldier here had to remember that he was worth three Japanese. In future he expected no further retirement, but advance at all costs.  It amazed me that Blamey should deal so insensitively with the men of such a well-proved brigade”

‘Here you bloody well are and here you bloody well stay. And if any bloody German gets between your post and the next, turn your bloody Bren around and shoot him up the arse’ BRIG George Vasey.  Instructions to the troops of 19th BDE at the Battle of Thermopylae, 23rd April, 1941.

Special Orders to No 1 Section 13/3/18

  1. This position will be held, and the section will remain here until relieved.
  2. The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this programme.
  3. If the section cannot remain here alive, it will remain here dead, but in any case, it will remain here.
  4. Should any man, through shell shock or other cause, attempt to surrender, he will remain here dead.
  5. Should all guns be blown out, the section will use Mills grenades, and other novelties.
  6. Finally, the position, as stated, will be held.

CAPT Frank Bethune, OC No 1 Section, 3rd Machine Gun Company, Passchendaele.  Another of his quotes is, “With our dear ones behind, and God above, and our friends on each side, and only the enemy in front— what more do we wish than that?

“Morituri vos salutamus”, those who are about to die, salute you. Group Captain John Lerew.  On being directed to keep the airfield at Rabaul open, when he had just 2 Wirraways and 1 Hudson bomber.

“The Australian troops are fighting magnificently and their training is far superior to ours.”   Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.  Writing to his wife, Lucia, about the stubborn defence he was encountering at Tobruk.

“Even if I wished to surrender, and I don’t, I am commanding Australian who would cut my throat if I accepted your terms.”  COL Charles Hore, Commander at the Elands River Post in response to a request from Boer GEN Jacobs Koos de la Rey to surrender.  The 500 Australians and Rhodesians were outnumbered 3 to 1.  Lord Kitchener went on to say, “Only colonials could have held out and survived in such impossible conditions”.

The story of Capt Bethune’s orders.

Frank Bethune was a priest, ordained in 1908 and served as the Parish priest at the St John the Baptist Anglican Church in Hobart.  He became a fighting padre, enlisting in 1915 as a private.  He was commissioned as a 2LT in the 12th Battalion, 3rd BDE.  He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1917.  In March 1918, Bethune, commanding No 1 section, 3rd Machine Gun Company, was ordered to occupy a defensive position at Buff Bank near Messines in France. The Section survived and 18 day tenure of the position.  The orders became famous, being published in The Times and being described as “inspiring and famous”.  They were circulated around the British and French armies and in British Army Orders until 1940.  After the fall of Dunkirk, they were printed on posters under the caption ‘The spirit which won the last war’ and shown throughout England.

Frank Bethune Orders

One of the most famous set of orders every given in the Australian Army.

Bethune order poster

The order was printed on posters in WW2.


“Chin Up Girls, I’m proud of you. I love you all.” Matron Irene Drummond of the AANS (Australian Army Nursing Service) just before she and 21 other nurses were machine-gunned in the Bangka Island Massacre.

Matron Irene Drummond

Matron Irene Drummond. Killed at the Bangka Island Massacre, 16 February 1942.

“… never quite realised how dense the fog of war could be!”   MAJ GEN Cyril Clowes, 30 Aug, 1942, to LT GEN Syd Rowell after winning the Battle of Milne Bay in New Guinea.  He and his brother were in the first class of cadets to enter RMC-D.