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National Commemorative Service

Issue date: 
Monday, 25 April 2016
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Tēnā koutou katoa e huihui nei, ki te whakamaumāhara i te rā o ANZAC, ki te whakamaumāhara ki a rātou mā i mate ki tēnei pakanga - ngā hoia hoa piri me ngā hoia hoa riri.  E kore rawa rātou e warewaretia.  Kia ora tātou katoa.

Greetings to you all, as we join to remember ANZAC day and all those from both sides who lost their lives.  We will remember them all.  Greetings to us all.

This morning, I specifically acknowledge The Right Honourable John Key, Prime Minister; Acting Dean of the Diplomatic Corps His Excellency Isauro Torres, Ambassador of Chile; Her Excellency Damla Yesim Say, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, His Excellency Peter Woolcott, High Commissioner for Australia, and members of the Diplomatic Corps; Andrew Little MP, Leader of the Opposition; Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington; Police Commissioner Mike Bush; Helene Quilter, Secretary of Defence; Paul James, Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage; Rear Admiral John Martin, Chief of Navy; Major General Peter Kelly, Chief of Army; Air Commodore Darryn Webb, Deputy Chief of Air Force; Rear Admiral David Ledson (RTD) Chair, National War Memorial Council; and BJ Clark, National President Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association; veterans and youth representatives.

One hundred years ago today, the 25th of April 1916, New Zealanders came together in their thousands for the very first Anzac Day, to mark the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. 

It is difficult to imagine the depth of sorrow, shock and distress of those who attended. For many, the Anzac Day ceremony was a funeral service for their loved ones, as the remains of most of the 2779 men who died in Gallipoli were in un-named or unmarked graves, or buried at sea, halfway around the world.

The war that was supposed to be over by Christmas was not the great adventure that many had expected. A generation of our best and brightest was paying a terrible price, and would continue to do so, for another three years.

Today, we recall how the Gallipoli veterans – maimed and unable to return to the battlefield – made the first Anzac Day happen. They had called for a day of national mourning to honour their mates, who had trained with them, fought alongside them, and died beside them.

They called for a public service – so that people could come together in large numbers in an act of remembrance.

Their call was answered.

Families flocked to mourn their fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands and sons – and to pray for their loved ones who were still on active service. 

Large crowds turned out in towns and cities throughout New Zealand and Australia, as well as in London and in camps in Egypt where soldiers were training for battle.

A journalist writing for the Otago Daily Times the following day remarked that:

While grim-visaged war still lifts its head, Anzac Day is remembered. When peace shall have again descended upon the earth it will not be forgotten beneath the Southern Cross, nor throughout the wider range of the British Empire.

Today, we can see that Anzac Day has indeed not been forgotten, as we still gather on this day each year, one hundred years later.

Over that century of Anzac services,  the meaning of Anzac Day has broadened to become a time to remember the brave service men and women who have fought in all conflicts, as well as those involved in international peacekeeping.

The way we understand the events of the First World War has also changed. Only earlier this year, New Zealand historians discovered that the numbers of New Zealand troops who served at Gallipoli were almost double what had previously been thought, at more than 16,000.

History is not a fixed narrative, but a shared understanding which can deepen and become clearer over time.

I encourage every New Zealander to find out more about their ancestors’ experiences of the First World War, particularly during this commemorative period, so that we never forget the price they paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Last year, unprecedented numbers turn out to Anzac Day ceremonies throughout the country to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings – especially here at Pukeahu – estimates vary, but at least 50,000 people gathered here at dawn.

And at Gallipoli itself, the Turkish Government welcomed 10,000 visitors from New Zealand and Australia for a moving Anzac Day service.

This year, the focus of the centenary commemorations shifts to the Western Front, where the majority of New Zealand casualties were sustained during the First World War.

We remember the Battle of the Somme, the tunnellers beneath the French town of Arras, and the countless brave men who lost their lives on the fields of Belgium and France. More than 12,000 New Zealanders were killed between 1916 and the end of the War.

We are in the middle year of centennial commemorations of the First World War. It has been an honour to be part of Anzac ceremonies during this centenary period, both as the representative of our Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as a New Zealander, and as a former soldier.

Opening Pukeahu National War Memorial Park last year was a memorable occasion. This park is where present and future generations can reflect on New Zealand’s experiences of conflict, and on how our nation has been shaped by those experiences.

While the meaning of Anzac Day may have evolved over time, one thing has remained constant – our respect for what we call “the Anzac spirit” – the qualities of courage, compassion and comradeship.

As we stand here today, one hundred years after our forebears first gathered on the first Anzac Day, we keep the memory of our fallen men and women alive, and look to the future with gratitude and hope.

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou – we will remember them.

Last updated: 
Monday, 25 April 2016

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