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Anzac Day

Issue date: 
Thursday, 25 April 1991
The Hon Dame Catherine Tizard, GCMG, GCVO, DBE, QSO

Last year was the 75th anniversary of Gallipoli - that terrible battle of the First World War which New Zealanders will never forget.

This year the 50th anniversary of the Battle for Crete in the Second World War will be marked by remembrance ceremonies.

There are parallels between the two battles. Neither was an allied victory. In both, New Zealand along with Australia and Britain, sustained heavy losses but remember their action with pride. Both battles subsequently have been exhaustively examined and written about by military analysts, biographers and social historians.

Defence Historian, Chris Pugsley, has drawn another parallel. "Crete is like Gallipoli," he said, "in terms of almost holding a place that might have turned the tide of history " New Zealand would have had the power to influence the course of world events, which comes to New Zealand quite rarely. So yes, Crete Was important.

But perhaps that is not what the ordinary soldier who fought there remembers of the experience.

Maybe what is remembered more is what is coming out, only decades later, in personal diaries and letters which speak of horror, fear, enormous sacrifice, futility, anger, injustice and hell. They did not speak much about what happened. I suspect that for many their only way to get on with life was to thrust the memories deep into their minds. The soldiers who experienced these things did not glorify the situations of war. Their pride is in the fact that they faced them, did the best they could for the job they were set, in the face of overwhelming odds. And that they cared for their comrades in arms.

At home it was a time of national co-operation, pulling together, sacrifice toward the agreed objective. There was a war effort, rationing; shortages were accepted because people in Britain who were worse off needed our assistance.

We sometimes rather wistfully to times of war and the spirit of co-operation which seems possible then but so elusive in peacetime.

Only recently a phrase was used in reference to ways of achieving recovery from our present economic problems. It was said we needed to put the economy on a "war footing".

I think that the spirit we yearn to resurrect is not a return to war - God forbid! - but the will to assist each other, anyone in need, any neighbour, any friend: to go without something ourselves to help someone with less. To accept less so that all can have enough to survive.

It's not the horrors and sacrifices of military adversity we face now, but the sacrifices and defeats of economic adversity which are testing our pride, our will and our spirit to stand together.

The enemy has changed but the battles continue.

Our present fight may not have the potential to change the course of world events, but it may be able to change the course of New Zealand's future. I hope we measure up for all those who had a vision of a better world for everyone and died for it.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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