Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Your Worship Julie Hardaker, Mayor of Hamilton; Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West; Dr Bill McArthur, Chairman of The Theatre of the Impossible Trust (or TOTI for short); Gallipoli historian Richard Stowers; and the families of Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones and Richard Henderson—tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for inviting me here to Hamilton today to unveil a plaque and street sign to mark the renaming of Marlborough Place as Sapper Moore-Jones Place.
Bill and Richard have already spoken of the work of the Trust, the many centenaries and anniversaries we will mark in the next few years, and the life, work, and tragic death of Horace Moore-Jones.
Rather than repeat their comments, I would like to pick up on a point made towards the end of Richard’s remarks when he quoted the coroner’s comments that Moore-Jones had “lived up to the highest ideals of Anzac.”
It’s now more than 97 years since the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli and it is several years since the last of those who served in that fateful campaign have passed on. As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of war, and drawing on Moore-Jones’ life, what does it mean to live “to the highest ideals of Anzac” in the 21st century.
The first is that Moore-Jones’ life and his death speaks about what it means to be a New Zealander. Moore-Jones lived in a time when notions of national identity were more fluid. Most people saw themselves as British first and as Australians or New Zealanders second.
Moore-Jones was born in England and variously lived in Australia, New Zealand and Britain. He met his first wife in Auckland and his second wife in New South Wales and his children were born in both places. He was living in London when the war broke out and joined the British section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
The war and the horrors that men like Moore-Jones saw and experienced began a process whereby we came to see ourselves less as British and more as New Zealanders. His “Man and his Donkey” watercolour painting has become an iconic symbol that represents the courage of the Anzacs. It is rightly considered among the most important pieces of Australasian war art, with the image of a soldier transporting a wounded comrade symbolising the nation-building sacrifice of the Gallipoli campaign.
It is one of our history’s supreme ironies that a series of military engagements on the other side of the world – at Gallipoli, on the Western front and in the Middle East – was a defining period in our history and in our developing sense of “New Zealandness.”
I recently provided the foreword for a book to be published based on recorded interviews undertaken 25 years ago with First World War veterans.
In their voices there is much of what we call the New Zealand character. There’s an easygoingness, fair-mindedness and a willingness to work together with others – to muck in and get things done – that is supported by a real and practical aptitude for the requirements of battle.
They were stoic men who endured what was almost unendurable. They're self-deprecating and far quicker to credit luck than admit their own skill. They're admiring of good leadership and even respectful of honourable enemies. And they're hard on those whose arrogance contravenes their sense of decency and humanity.
The life and death of Moore-Jones speaks then to the values that we as New Zealanders hold dear. In his service he displayed comradeship, commitment, integrity, and most of all courage. His work in making topographical sketches of the terrain and plans of Allied and Turkish positions was both invaluable to the war effort and incredibly dangerous. To do his work effectively he had to be close to the front lines, often exposed to fire. And only did he complete his hazardous tasks to the highest level, but also comforted the sick, wounded and dying men around him.
Those values were also to the fore in his death here 90 years ago. Having easily escaped the fire in the Hamilton Hotel, he could have stood on the side lines and watched as the building was consumed by flames. Instead, he heroically helped rescue others and died from the extensive burns he received. And in the immediate aftermath, local people organised a fundraising campaign for the staff who no longer had jobs, raising £80—a significant sum in those days.
These values and these heroic deeds do not belong to a bygone age. They are demonstrated by New Zealanders every day in a host of different situations. Earlier this year, I awarded silver medals to five New Zealanders recognised by the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand. The recipients displayed bravery and courage of the highest order in placing their own lives at risk to come to aid of complete strangers. Two of the awards went to people who saved others from burning homes. And we saw ordinary New Zealanders in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, working alongside emergency services personnel, pulling injured people from the ruins of buildings as ground around them continued to shake.
Likewise, those values were on display as the whole community rallied around those affected by the earthquakes. The work of organisations like the Student Volunteer Army showed that New Zealanders of all ages are willing and able to come to the aid of their fellow citizens in times of great need.
That then forms the legacy of Sapper Moore-Jones and why it is so important that he be remembered. His life and death reminds us of what it means to be a New Zealander and of the values that bind us together as a nation. His life and death reminds us of what the “highest ideals of Anzac” means today.
As a contemporary poet wrote of Anzac’s service:
“Not many are left, and not many are sound,
And thousands lie buried in Turkish ground,
These are the Anzacs; the others may claim
Their zeal and their spirit, but never their name.”
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.