On a memorial outside the great wall surrounding the town of Le Quesnoy in northern France are inscribed these words: "From the uttermost ends of the earth." They are a tribute to the New Zealanders who liberated that town in the closing days of the first World War. There are streets named after them, and schools, and every year there is a commemoration of what is, for the people of that town, still a momentous day, 4 November 1918.
Today we join with countless other New Zealanders and Australians around the world in commemorating, with honour and with thanksgiving, those who left our shores for what were for them, too, the uttermost ends of the earth, to fight, to suffer, and to die, for freedom and for justice and for peace. The places where they went are written indelibly on our national consciousness: Anzac Cove and Chunuk Bair, the Somme, Messines, Ypres, Passchendaele, and then 20 years later, Greece and Crete, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Italy, the skies above Europe and the Pacific, oceans around the world, and more recently Korea, Malaya and Vietnam.
Some say they went to fight other nations' wars. But is it not the responsibility of those who live in freedom to secure freedom for those denied it by tyranny and oppression? Even bare self-interest tells us that if evil is not checked it can quickly engulf even those far away. Just as no man is an island, entire of itself, the same is true of every nation. For, willy nilly, we are involved in mankind, and we cannot isolate ourselves from the sufferings of our fellow humans. That is why we went to war, and why we must ever be ready to defend not only our own freedom but also the freedom of others who hold it equally dear. And that is why we must, too, be ready to play a responsible part in making and keeping the peace, as we do now in many parts of the world, and through our membership of international organisations, in securing justice and peace for all humankind.
On the Commonwealth War memorial at Kohima, in north east India, perhaps the westernmost point of the war with Japan, there are these words:
When you go home, tell them of us, and say,
For your tomorrow we gave our today.
On Anzac Day we can almost hear the voices of 30,000 New Zealanders reminding us of that. For that is the toll of our war dead, those whose names are inscribed on memorials in Asia and Europe and North Africa. And what they are saying to us is let your today, which is the tomorrow they were not to know, let it be full of promise, promise of peace and justice, free of bigotry and intolerance, of discrimination and denied opportunity, of all the evils that lead to dissension and then to conflict.
The fulfilment of that promise requires a commitment from each one of us, for peace is not simply the absence of war, but a state of mind and a way of life that begin by being entirely personal, here at home, within ourselves.
It is easy on occasions such as this to express the hope that sacrifices will not have been in vain. But they will have been, the blood of so many New Zealanders spilled on the world's battle fields will have been to no avail, if in our time we do not achieve the conditions that lead to lasting peace.
On this day of so many solemn memories, of pride and gratitude for what others have given for us, the most worthy honour we can offer in their memory is to pledge ourselves to the same cause for which they gave their all. That is the way in which we will most fittingly remember them.