Anzac Day 2010
Today Sunday the 25th April 2010 is the 95th year since Australian and New Zealand troops landed on a small beach on the Turkish Dardanelle Peninsular.
This morning we have paused in our busy activities, and have gathered here to remember, and pay our respects to those young men who from this community and others throughout the land who never returned to their families and loved ones. We also remember those who did return, but were never ever the same again for the rest of their unhappy lives.
It was about this time 95 years ago that young New Zealand troops were nervously watching as their boats slowly moved towards a small beach surrounded by steep scrub covered hills. One would later write it is rather like Paekākāariki with the Island in the distance. From the shore they could hear the continuous sound of rifle fire while from behind shells whistled over head .As they drew closer men quietly collapsed dead or dying.
In the beginning, it had been all rather fun. Much like the big OE of today. New Zealand was very much a rural community and most young men knew how to handle fire arms. Gun clubs existed in many communities. In fact it is recorded that in earlier years a certain Paekākāariki Publican would invite his guests on to the hotel balcony to test their rifle skills against tin can dangling from a tree on the hillside. Paekākāariki was proud of their young men who volunteered for service and held farewell evenings in the new surf club hall .where they presented the volunteers with a wrist watch.
A sea voyage. The wonders of Cairo. The pyramids, the Greek Islands, would soon be all forgotten. Nothing in the military manuals could prepare the young New Zealanders and Australians for the chaos and carnage they were to experience for the next 8 Months. From the very beginning, everything went very wrong. The Australians and New Zealanders or Anzacs as they were soon to be known were landed a mile from their designated beach.
Just to illustrate.
When in 1943 the 2nd Marine Division held practice landings just to the North of us here they landed in where QEP is today..Ames St
The landings were the brain child of Winston Churchill. The plan was for the army to demolish the Turkish forts so that the Royal Navy could attack Constantinople and hopefully retire Turkey from the war. The campaign was doomed from the beginning. The British Government were luke warm to the idea as was Lord Kitchener British Army Commander in Chief.
The lives of thousands of brave young men were needlessly wasted by inept British Generals. Their CVs would often read Zulu war, Afghan war, and Borer war.To be fair, the Anzacs also had their share of incompetent officers.
By July there had been little advance since the landings and it was resolved that a major campaign needed to be planned. The British would advance from the South, a new British force would land to the North, The Australians would launch a diversionary attack while the New Zealand Division with British reinforcements would capture Chunak Bair a hill which dominated the landscape. The attack began on the 6th August.To the South the Turks held the British. To the North a successful landing was squandered by poor leadership. The Australians bravely attacked but suffered horrific casualties. After refusing orders for a suicidal daylight advance Lt Colonel William Malone on the night of 8th August led the Wellington battalion in an attack which captured the hill strategic hill.. For 2 days a ferocious battle raged for control of the hill top. the New Zealanders fought with bayonet and rifle butt. The two inexperienced British battalions were decimated. While fighting along side his dwindling men Lt. Colonel Malone was killed by friendly fire. When relieved that night by the Wellington Mt Rifles and the Otago Battalion, of the 760 who captured the hill only 70 shattered men survived. Two British Battalions relieved the New Zealanders on the night of 9th August. The next morning attacking Turks swept over the hill and completely annihilated them.
The failure of the campaign was the beginning of the end. London sent out a new General who quickly saws the futility of the operation and by the 20th of December 1915 in the most successful of exercises all troops were safely evacuated.
Approximately half a million Allied soldiers and sailors took part in the campaign and nearly half became casualties. With a population of a million people there were few families in New Zealand who were not affected.
In our small Village of the 26 who served overseas over a third failed to return.
21 years later 79 volunteers from our still small village volunteered to serve in WW2. on this occasion 6 failed to return.
This morning we not only remember those who fell in WW1 and WW2 but also those who served and perished in all wars where New Zealand was involved. We pay tribute to those who men and women who severed in Malaya , Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia and to those who today serve in East Timor, the Middle East, Afghanistan and those who are on United Nations Duty.
It is often the practice for modern historians to write that our country was never in any real danger during the early years of WW2. Those who lived here at the time certainty thought otherwise. It was, there fore, with great relief and excitement that the local population welcomed the young men from North America who arrived in June 1942. Seven weeks later for the Island of Guadalcanal. Today we remember those young men and also their colleuges who six Months later arrived, battle weary ,disease ridden but victorious from the Guadalcanal campaign. It was here that they recuperated and retrained for their next assignment. For many, Paekākāariki would be their last home. Their deeds are not forgotten. A Street named Tarawa ensures their memory lives with us.
This morning there will be thousands of young Australian and New Zealanders gathering at Anzac Cove. Many like us will come to remember, and pay their respects to the fallen. Many more come to see the land where their ancestors bones fore ever lie. They will all look at the unbelievable eroded land scape, the trenches a road width apart, the steep gullies, and the small bay. They will walk by the cemetery sites of Ghurkhas, Indians ,Englishmen, Frenchmen, Australians and New Zealanders. They will not fail to notice the many huge Turkish memorials that rise above the landscape. From the hill tops they will see a view seen by few Anzacs; the Dardanelle’s, and in the distance Asia Minor. They will then begin to fully comprehend what a superhuman task faced the Anzacs. And then, as they continue to reflect, they will begin to fully appreciate the shocking waste of life, and the futility of war. It is from this experience that in some mysterious manner that the courage, the bravery, the determination and the spirit of the Anzacs continues to manifest into the syche of both the Australia and New Zealand Nations.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.