The ANZAC commemoration at the Memorial Hall today at 11 am (a traditional time as that was that hour that the armistice that ended World War 1 took effect) saw the hall packed with veterans, service personnel, scouts, guides and members of the public. This year is the last that marks a centenary of the WW1 years.
Mayor Guru briefly recounted his family’s experiences in his part of Malaysia which had a Chinese majority and suffered under the ruthless brutality of the occupying Japanese of WW2 between 1942 and 1945. His own grandfather was one of those rounded up by soldiers in a square and sent to the construction of the ‘Death Railway’ between Thailand and Burma. He was never heard from again.
Chris Turver spoke of the number of NZ soldiers who served in WW1, and in the conflicts since — and of the numbers of those who were killed and wounded. In the ‘war to end all wars’, enthusiasm by the population about doing their part to support the British in the battle of Empires in Europe soon turned to disillusionment, heartbreak and a daily grind as the war dragged on with no end in sight. This was the worst conflict for NZ troops with 18,000 dead. In WW2 more intelligent generals saw that figure reduced to a still hefty 12,000. In the most recent conflict, Afghanistan, which has now lasted nearly 17 years, there have been 10 NZ soldier casualties.
The slogan ‘Lest we forget’ was a danger a few decades ago, but the number of young people attending ANZAC commemorations now ensure that there is no likelihood of that here — and there is little likelihood of it either in the different battlefields overseas where the dead are buried — in Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey and Egypt among other countries — as locals keenly tend the graves.