25 Apr 2013

Minister proud to represent NZ at Gallipoli

10:21 pm on 25 April 2013

The Defence Minister has told thousands of people gathered at Anzac Cove there is no more poignant place for a New Zealander to stand than at the dawn service at Gallipoli.

It is 98 years since troops from Australia and New Zealand first landed on the Turkish peninsula in a campaign that claimed the lives of 130,000 during World War I.

Some 44,000 Allied soldiers died during the campaign from 25 April 1915 until 9 January 1916, including 8709 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders. Almost 87,000 Turks lost their lives.

Jonathan Coleman told the service the events at Gallipoli in 1915 have had a profound influence on New Zealand's national consciousness.

He paid tribute to the many Australians and New Zealanders who had journeyed to the beach on Thursday morning that saw so much bloodshed.

"It's a place you've never been to before, but at the same time you've grown up with. It's a place of sadness, but a place of great pride.

"It's a place which for New Zealanders distils and lays clear all the qualities which we hold dear in our national character."

Australia's Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon was blunt in his assessment of the Gallipoli campaign, which he described as a calamity.

"How difficult it is today in the peace and serenity of the dawn's early light to contemplate the epic nature and ferocity of the battles here in 1915. To imagine the explosions of bombs, the cracks of rifle fire, the dysentery, the lice, the smell of death, the extremes of weather."

Mr Snowdon went on to say the campaign has become central to Australia's national story and a hallmark in defining its nationhood.

Jonathan Coleman said it was a privilege to represent New Zealand at Gallipoli. He would also attend a more intimate service at Chunuk Bair, the site of a famous battle between New Zealand and Turkish forces in August 1915.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have gathered at ceremonies throughout the country to mark Anzac Day.

At memorials in small country towns to cenotaphs in the main cities, people have remembered the sacrifice of New Zealand's soldiers on foreign battlefields.

Speakers made special mention of the 10 New Zealanders killed in the latest conflict, the war in Afghanistan.