25 Apr 2013

Soldiers past and present honoured on Anzac Day

10:19 pm on 25 April 2013

Soldiers past and present, including 10 killed while serving in Afghanistan, have been remembered at Anzac Day services throughout the country.

About 300 people attended a ceremony at the National War Memorial's Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on Thursday where Prime Minister John Key and the Governor-General, Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, were among the dignitaries who laid wreaths.

The dawn service in Wellington.

The dawn service in Wellington. Photo: RNZ

John Key said Anzac Day, 25 April, is a time to reflect on the sacrifice made by thousands of New Zealanders to ensure the country's liberty and freedom.

Mr Key said it represents a chance to come together and pay tribute to the brave men and women of New Zealand's military, past and present, and is also a time to remember the soldiers who died during New Zealand's deployment to Afghanistan and their role in Bamyan province.

The Governor-General paid tribute to fallen soldiers of the past and those killed in recent conflicts in Afghanistan. He said the Gallipoli campaign in World War I served to create an indelible bond between New Zealanders and Australians.

"Then as now there were rivalries - and yet, in the thick of battle when all was at stake, it was the Australians we trusted before anyone else. A unique bond of two nations sharing the same day of remembrance has created a spirit of mateship and shared sacrifice."

In Queenstown after a parade through the streets, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English recounted how moved he was to attend the funerals of New Zealand soldiers recently. Mr English said the feelings of those who were assigned to Afghanistan are very similar to the diaries of the men who fought at Gallipoli.

Youth representatives from New Zealand, Australia and Turkey were involved in the service at the National War Memorial, while dozens of league fans from Australia in Wellington for an AFL match between St Kilda and Sydney also attended.

Dawn services were held throughout New Zealand, as they are every year.

A crowd of at least 2000 gathered at the Cenotaph outside Parliament in Wellington where Defence Force Vice-Chief, Major General Tim Keating, asked them to remember the New Zealanders who died fighting for peace across the world.

About 180 people attended a service on Navy frigate Te Mana, currently in Vietnam. It is making diplomatic visits to several countries in the region and taking part in Defence Force exercises before returning to New Zealand in June.

Meanwhile, about 300 people attended a commemoration at the 13-year-old Ataturk memorial on Wellington's south coast on Thursday afternoon.

New Zealand was represented by Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson. Turkey was represented by ambassador Damla Say, who said the soldiers who died are now the sons of Turkey as well as New Zealand.

Ms Sigh told the crowd this was the message of Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish army commander at Gallipoli.

A wreath laying ceremony was later held at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

A wreath laying ceremony was later held at the National War Memorial in Wellington. Photo: RNZ

Auckland service at Domain

Thunderstorms cleared in time for the dawn service at the Auckland Domain. Many attending had family members who served in the two World Wars, while others said they just wanted to come to pay their respects.

In his opening prayer, Navy chaplain Colin Mason said war is a horror and spoke of the price that has been paid for freedom.

Auckland mayor Len Brown thanked past and present servicemen and women, including those who are among the last New Zealand troops returning from Afghanistan.

A fly-past of an RNZAF helicopter took place at 6am.

This year's memorial service placed a particular remembrance on the Pacific fighting in World War II and the contribution of Pacific island soldiers.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Sky Tower were lit in red for the occasion.

Gallipoli remembered

People also gathered at the Cenotaph on Memorial Drive in Hamilton, in Cranmer Square in Christchurch and in Queens Gardens in Dunedin for dawn services.

Paul O'Connor, master of ceremonies at Cranmer Square, acknowledged the 2721 New Zealand soldiers who died in the World War I campaign at Gallipoli and asked those gathered to remember the soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan.

Defence Force chief, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, made several mentions of the men and women who have died in modern warfare.

Two returned servicemen said the Christchurch commemoration brought back positive memories of comrades rather than negative ones of war.

Richie Bishop and Ken Melhop, former members of the Royal New Zealand Navy who served during the 1960s, said the service highlighted friendships forged overseas. They were impressed by the number of young people attending, but also noted the ranks of returned servicemen are thinning.

In a tribute to those who died in the February 2011 earthquake, a cross placed atop the Cenotaph was gifted to the city by Australian Urban Search and Rescue team members who carved it using wood taken from the badly damaged Anglican cathedral.

In Hamilton, the crowd included about 300 veterans, adults and children. A civic service was held at 10.15am.

As dawn broke, RSA Chaplain Lieutenant-Colonel Don Oliver from the Salvation Army spoke of the bravery, ingenuity, loyalty, endurance and ultimate tragedy of war.

Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver said the 98th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing does not commemorate a military triumph, but the more humbling triumph of human courage and sacrifice.

First services held

The first ever known Anzac commemoration in the small Hawke's Bay village of Elsthorpe saw a much stronger turnout than expected, with school children playing a significant role.

Anzac Day at Elsthorpe.

Anzac Day at Elsthorpe. Photo: RNZ

About 200 people from the farming district attended to remember 25 local soldiers who lost their lives from the Boer War to the Vietnam War.

Pupils helped organise the commemoration, with many having a relative who had fought in one of the conflicts of the past century. The children said they were grateful for the sacrifice the soldiers of past wars had made for them.

Queenstown also held its first dawn service for many decades at 6.45am at Marine Parade. Returned and Services Association president David Geddes said about 450 people braved a cold breeze to attend and about half were from Australia.

Resident Rhonda Parry gave a moving account of her great-grandfather's Gallipoli campaign, taken from his personal diaries.

Ms Parry reminded those gathered that while he had to live the rest of his life with wounds he suffered, many never returned. She said those men did not freely give their lives, but that their lives were taken away so that others may enjoy freedom.