Tena Koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa
RSA President, Mayor, Returned Service men and women
Current serving personnel, Gentlemen and Ladies, Boys and girls
Here we are 95 years after the event in WW1 the landing at Gallipoli, Turkey of ANZAC troops (and many others) which gave rise to this commemorative Day in New Zealand and Australia.
Although the day commemorates those who did not return from WWI it now encompasses all sacrifices made by servicemen and women serving their country overseas, especially those who die in that service.
With apologies to the Veterans of Korea, Vietnam and more recent wars and events I want to pay tribute to the returned servicemen of WWII.
This is the generation that includes my father and mother and aunties and uncles. They lived in the shadow of their fathers of WW1 for many years who had fought the War to end all wars (as it was called). They lived their childhood and teenage years through the period of the great depression.
But at 1130am New Zealand time on 3 Sept 1939 GG Galway announced that Britain had declared war against the German Reich, followed immediately by Acting Prime Minister Peter Fraser, confirming that New Zealand was at war also.
My father and many of your fathers or grandfathers joined the Navy, Army and Air Force for many reasons patriotism, adventure, peer and parent pressure, employment, pay, bravado, overseas travel and they would tell you many others.
Some of you were away overseas for 5 years, many several years, 12,000 Kiwis died in this war and did not return to their families; 8000 became prisoners of war, some for 4 5 years; that is 1 in every 200 people in NZ at the time. No family was unaffected by this war.
About 21 million servicemen of all nations died in WW2 and it was estimated that 33 million civilians were also killed during WW2.
And we must also remember the 4th service the Merchant Navy – the oldest and youngest Kiwis likely killed in the war were 15 year old Deck Boy Tom Burke and 65 year old mechanic (greaser) James McKenna both in the Central Atlantic.
He toa taumata rau Bravery has many resting places
We owe our freedom and way of life to you, your values of loyalty and comradeship and independence have served us well and of course your return from war in 1946 resulted in the first year of the ‘ babyboomers’ demographic group
Because of you we are lucky people.
Because of your efforts and influence New Zealand has never again declared war in the 71 years since 1939. We are lucky that these few veterans – here representing many others – fought for us to have choices.
Benjamin Franklin said “There was never a good war or a bad peace.”
We will remember you for a good peace.