Reception for the Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals
Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Nau mai haere mai ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Kia ora tātou katoa.
It’s my great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House Wellington for this reception celebrating the centenary of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals. I’d like to specifically acknowledge: Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal; Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence; Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Defence; Air Marshal Kevin Short, Chief of Defence; Rear Admiral David Proctor, Chief of Navy; Major General John Boswell, Chief of Army; Air Vice Marshal Andrew Clark, Chief of Air Force; Rachel Hayward, Secretary of the Cabinet.
This celebration is long overdue, with centenary celebrations initially scheduled to take place back in March 2020. These past three years have, however, served as a clear reminder of the many ways in which our defence personnel work to keep New Zealanders safe.
On that note, I wish to acknowledge our armed forces’ response to the recent extreme weather events – often putting your own lives at risk to help others. I join with all New Zealanders in thanking you for your service.
This evening’s event is made particularly special with the distinguished presence of Her Royal Highness, Colonial-in-Chief of the New Zealand Corps of Signals. We are honoured and delighted to welcome you and Sir Tim back to Aotearoa, and to have you with us here this evening.
The New Zealand Corps of Signals holds a unique and eminent place within New Zealand’s military history. I am pleased to note our own very special Government House connection to the Corps – with our newest Aide-de-Camp, Captain Josh Kyle, himself a signaller.
As many of you may know, the only New Zealand soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for conduct during the Gallipoli Campaign was a member of the then New Zealand Divisional Signal Company: Corporal Cyril Bassett.
The stories of Corporal Bassett’s bravery are difficult to comprehend. In August 1915, during the Battle of Chunuk Bair, Corporal Bassett and a number of his companions worked tirelessly to lay down and maintain telephone lines between brigade headquarters and the front lines.
They often worked in full daylight, across unforgiving terrain, and under relentless enemy fire. Their lines were repeatedly severed by enemy artillery, but Corporal Bassett and his fellow linesmen returned to the front again and again to carry out the task they’d been given.
When acknowledged for his own personal feats of skill and bravery, Corporal Bassett was quick to deflect the praise with self-deprecating humour: ‘It was just that I was so short the bullets passed over me.’ He was also reluctant to talk about his Victoria Cross, responding to questions or congratulations with: ‘All my mates ever got were wooden crosses.’
Corporal Bassett’s story is extraordinary – but also, I think, quite characteristic of those things for which the New Zealand Defence Force has become so renowned: a deep sense of duty, commitment, and selflessness. I am honoured to serve as this country’s Commander-in-Chief.
Of course, establishing and maintaining clear and trusted lines of communication is fundamental to our Army’s effective operation. With the remarkable developments that have taken place across communications technology over the past 100 years, our signallers have had to evolve through more advanced training and expertise. You remain at the very forefront of your field.
The work and ethos of the Corps seems to me well summed up in the whakataukī: ‘Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa. Let us keep close together, not wide apart.’
I believe that this whakataukī, which underlines the need for collaboration and collective action, can guide us in confronting many of the challenges we face as a society and a global community.
I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge Her Royal Highness, for the immense work that you do in support of many important humanitarian causes – from sustainable transportation and housing, to the safety and wellbeing of children around the world. Your work ethic has become legendary, and I note from your schedule while here New Zealand, that that shows no sign of changing.
I also wish to thank you, for the hospitality that you and your family extended to me and my husband Richard in September of last year. I hope we have been able to return the favour, and that you enjoy the rest of your time in Aotearoa.
Finally, my very warmest congratulations to the Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals on your centenary – and my sincerest gratitude once again for all that you’ve done in the name of peace and security these past 100 years.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.