I acknowledge: The Honourable Kelvin Davis, Minister for Crown/Māori Relations;
Nicola Willis MP, representing the Opposition;
His Excellency Mr Ewen McDonald, High Commissioner of Australia;
Mr Sadullah Uzun, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of Turkey;
His Excellency, Mr Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlon, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Willie Apiata, VC;
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating and Mrs Keating;
Representatives of the New Zealand Defence Force Service Chiefs;
Councillor Jill Day, Deputy Mayor of Wellington;
Paul James, Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage;
The Chair and members of the National War Memorial Advisory Council;
BJ Clark, President Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association;
Veterans, Taranaki Whanui,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls
Today, as we gather together on Anzac Day, we remember back a hundred years ago, when New Zealanders observed Anzac Day for just the third time.
There would have been many heavy hearts on that day. Following Russia’s withdrawal from the War, the Germans had gone on the offensive on the Western Front and the tide seemed to be turning towards a German victory.
Back home, after more than three years of war effort, New Zealand was no longer the enthusiastic nation that had answered the call to arms.
As a friend of a returned serviceman observed:
You went away a smiling boy and you’ve come back a serious old man.
The story of the First World War is in part a story of the loss of innocence, for individuals – and perhaps for the nation as a whole.
As the year 1918 progressed, the Allied forces rallied their strength.
New Zealanders played a significant part in that effort – from helping to stop the German advance on Amiens in March, to liberating Le Quesnoy a week before the Armistice.
In Palestine, New Zealanders contributed to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.
A hundred years later, in a very different time and a very different world, we are still moved by these events.
Our servicemen in Gallipoli could never have imagined that so many thousands of New Zealanders would walk those same hills where they fought and died.
The initial advance at Anzac Cove, under heavy fire in an unknown landscape, remains a powerful symbol of what war has meant to us, made us, and taken from us as a nation.
Anzac Day has grown from those roots in Gallipoli, and become a day to commemorate all conflicts and all those who have served our country.
It’s a time to remember the nations with which we have shared the experience of war. The increasing number of international memorials here in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park are a tribute to these enduring bonds. We look forward to seeing the French, American and Canadian memorials, and the story of all Pacific peoples who have served with the New Zealand Defence Force acknowledged with a Pacific Islands Memorial.
It has often been said that our national identity was forged in the First World War. Whether or not that is true, there is no doubt that the War changed us forever.
As well as the political, military and economic legacy, the effects on individuals and families were felt through subsequent generations.
A hundred years later, we are seeking to better understand those impacts.
During the centenary period, we have taken a journey through history – from the declaration of war in August 1914, to Gallipoli, the Western Front and the Middle East.
Later this year this journey will take us to Armistice Day, and the beginning of peace.
We know now that this peace was relative and only temporary, and war became a recurring theme through the ensuing century.
On Anzac Day we take pause as a nation, to acknowledge the cost of all conflict, and to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of every New Zealander who has served their country. We acknowledge too the courage of those who have refused to serve, and the many challenges faced by those left behind.
I am honoured to share in this remembrance with all of you here today.