Full transcript of Wing Commander David Green’s address …
ANZAC Day 2010 Civic Service Paraparaumu.
Nga mate haere, haere, haere
Tatou te hunga ora tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
The dead, farewell, farewell, farewell
To us, the living, greetings, greetings, greetings to us all.
Today is a day of remembrance. A day of reflection. A day where we as a people stand together and honour the sacrifices of those who went before us. We honour those whose lives were lost and we honour those who bear the scars of conflict throughout their lives, in order to preserve our way of life, our ideals, our nation. At the same time, we hold dear in our thoughts those men and women who stand in foreign lands today, ordinary folk, doing heroes work in the name of peace and security.
Gallipoli in 1915 may seem long ago and distant from what is happening in our world today, but it is a place and a time that is worth remembering. It is a place and a time in our history that we must never forget. But just what is it that we must not forget?
We must not forget our people. The young men who fought at Gallipoli 95 years ago were just like us. They were from families and communities just like ours. They were sons and husbands and fathers and brothers, just like ours. They enjoyed sport and they liked having fun, they responded to good leadership. They resented imposed authority. They responded to the fear and confusion of battle with comradeship and out of the terror or war they helped to build our sense of nationalism. We know ourselves as New Zealanders today partly because of the sacrifice of the young and brave New Zealanders of 1915.
Over 100,000 New Zealand men and women served overseas in the First World War.
Over 18,000 died. There is nothing glorious about that.
In a letter to the NZ Herald in 1915 a soldier wrote:
What do I think of war? Well, it is kill, kill, kill. No one cares if you are the next to be shot. Sentiment dies the moment one sets foot in the trenches. Your mate may be shot alongside of you, and you will simply remark “Jack’s dead”, and that is all. Then you remove the body from the trench to make room.
There is nothing glorious about that. ANZAC Day is not about glorifying war. There is no glory to be found in the loss of human dignity that comes as a result of war.
The Gallipoli operation was a military failure, largely because our people were not prepared. Gallant and skilled as individuals, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was not well trained as a unit, the staff officers were not experienced and we were not well equipped. Nor, it must be said, were the British, French and Indian units alongside the ANZACs, nor were the Royal and French navies off shore. Gallipoli was a campaign for which no one was prepared.
War, we know full well, is wasteful and futile. Despite this, nations and peoples resort to organised violence perhaps even more frequently now as before. While it is not the legacy we want for our children, it is a fact that we cannot escape for now.
So we must ask the hard questions of “Why do wars occur?” and “Can they really be avoided?” What we learn is that to enjoy peace and freedom, we must be prepared to protect it.
We were taught the same lesson in 1940 and 41. Our military forces were not well trained, our equipment was poor and in short supply and the commanders were inexperienced. These are deadly failings, and the cost of those failings is seen in the war cemeteries across Europe, North Africa, South East Asia, and the Pacific.
Preparedness in the military is a complex and expensive concept. It takes years to recruit and train an Army battalion, to buy aircraft and place them into service, to train pilots and ground crews, and to commission navy ships and crews.
But preparedness is not just having a shopping list for military hardware. Commanders at all levels who will lead our people need significant preparation. And here I am not just talking about leadership in the Defence Force, I am thinking about leadership throughout our society. We need to remember the values that our forebears taught us and demonstrated in their attempts to foster peace and prosperity for us. Values like service, commitment, loyalty and integrity to each other, to our nation, and to the international community. Values which, I think if we are honest with ourselves, have perhaps been overshadowed by self-interest. We share a responsibility to demonstrate commitment, loyalty and integrity whether we are national leaders, leaders of and within organisations of all sizes and, probably most important, within our own families. We owe it to our elders, and we owe it to our children and grandchildren.
Anyone fortunate enough to visit Gallipoli would have find it a very moving and memorable experience to walk a mile in the shoes of our forebears and to visit places with immortal names such as ANZAC Cove, Shrapnel Valley, Lone Pine, Quinn’s Post, and Chunuk Bair. This place reminds us to never allow ourselves to forget the lessons of that battle because to do so would invite selfish complacency. If we become complacent, we will not be ready to defend what is right. If we are not ready to do it again, then we will have forgotten the sacrifices our forebears made in order that the world would be a better and safer place.
Their sacrifice is not forgotten. Today has become a day of national pride and respect. Attendance at ceremonies like this around the country and overseas has grown. More and more, young people turn up to honour the past. The meaning of ANZAC Day is part of schooling, is treated with appropriate reverence by our media, and Gallipoli itself has become a Mecca for New Zealand pilgrims.
The price of liberty and freedom is eternal vigilance. Some of those who paid the ultimate price lie in cemeteries both at home and across the globe. This includes not just service people, but also many, many civilians. We must never take the freedom we enjoy for granted, because it was paid for through the blood and the tears of those who have gone before us. I would like to personally acknowledge and thank the returned servicemen and women here today. You have given this nation every reason to be grateful, and you have given me as a serving member of the New Zealand Defence Force, a legacy of which I am truly proud.
It is the young men and women of our nation who inherit the responsibility for our future. The young men and women whose lives were taken in conflicts past are speaking to you today.
Lest we forget.