Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, warm greetings to you all.
Thank you for inviting David and me here this evening to celebrate the opening of the Quinn’s Post Trench Experience.
Sir Peter, it must be very satisfying to see the completion of this ambitious project. As always, I am astounded by your energy and commitment, and fully expect to be stunned yet again by your attention to detail and technical wizardry.
The Great War Exhibition has been a remarkable centrepiece of the First World War centennial commemorations – and has added a compelling dimension this heritage precinct.
The commemorations reminded us how events that happen half a world away can have a global impact, in this case, on every community, large and small, across New Zealand.
During the commemorations, many of us have investigated our family histories – or in my case, others have investigated for me, and identified two family members who fought in the War. I was able to visit the grave of one of them in Belgium.
Like most people in these situations, I have scant information about their wartime experiences, beyond their military records.
What we do know from such records is that for tens of thousands of New Zealand men, war meant trench warfare.
No matter how many diaries or histories we read, or photos we study, it’s a challenge to grasp what it must have been like to endure months of brutal and harrowing experiences in the trenches.
It’s a challenge that Sir Peter and the Wingnut team have embraced with their customary commitment and expertise. I have been forewarned that as educational experiences go, the Quinn’s Post Trench experience delivers a particularly emotional punch.
In 13 days’ time, I will be in Gallipoli for Anzac Day, where I will be speaking at the Dawn Service and at New Zealand’s National Service at Chunuk Bair.
When I stand on that fateful ridgeline, and look down on the scrub-covered hillsides, I will imagine how Colonel Malone’s Wellingtons left the comparative safety of Quinn’s Post, scaled the slopes up to Chunuk Bair, and helped to seize it from the Ottoman forces.
I will remember their brave stance against enemy onslaughts, and will join other New Zealanders in honouring the many who did not live to return to Quinn’s Post.
Once again, thank you Sir Peter for bringing such a critical piece of our history alive for us – and for your outstanding contribution to the centennial commemorations.
I wish you all the very best with your current project for the Imperial War Museum.