ANZAC Day – Dawn Parade Speech

Hon. John Banks
Mayor of Auckland City

25 April 2010

Media Release

Dawn Parade Speech – A Day to Honour and Reflect

Tena Koutou Katoa

Nga mate

Haere, haere, haere

At this time, on this day, 95 years ago, New Zealand soldiers were in a fight for their lives on the shores of ANZAC Cove.

Members of the Auckland Infantry Battalion were the first to land that fateful day. They were among the onslaught of three thousand New Zealanders.

By night fall six hundred were dead.

The Gallipoli campaign caused profound misery and palpable grief. Our casualties were enormous.

Everyone knew someone who would never return.

Our soldiers stood proudly in the face of dangerous fire and grave adversity.

It has been said, our nation, was then born.

While Gallipoli is often the focus of our remembrance day, we cannot forget other battles that left scars on our nationhood – The Somme, Messines, and Passchendaele.

Soldiers, some as young as 14, enlisted in the name of patriotism.

Some, in innocence, that an adventure awaited them.

Others, simply to escape the clutches of depravation. Whatever it was, none could have imagined their awful destiny.

As Lance Corporal Lawrence Sarten wrote of his battle at Passchendaele:

Dear Mother. It is my birthday, but you would not know that I am in hospital seriously wounded. I was hit recently during a big advance.

I was digging in to consolidate our new front line when, a high explosive shell burst almost in my face. The boy digging a foot or two off me was blown to pieces.

I thought my time had come. I lay there for 25 hours, before I was carried out.

Thank God for my marvellous escape. Your loving son, Lawrence.

New Zealanders, young and weary, assemble today to salute the gallantry of our soldiers and renew our debt and gratitude.

We do not seek to glorify war; rather we are here to honour and reflect on the service that so many men and women gave to our country.

As the sun rises this morning we turn our eyes to the glory which surrounds the memory of those who died for this nation, in the honourable pursuit of peace.

Today New Zealanders are greeted with affection on the shores of ANZAC Cove instead of machine gun fire.

A bridge of peace, friendship and love has been built between the opposing sides now.

The words of famous Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal – leave us all with hope.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore Rest in Peace.

You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons.”

2721 New Zealanders made the ultimate sacrifice at Gallipoli.

1669 have no known graves.

Some say the real victims were those who survived the Great War, World War Two, Korea and Vietnam and forever lived with their memories.

We exalt honour and salute them.

This morning I acknowledge a special survivor of World War Two.

A patriot I had the privilege of meeting recently at the reunion of the 28th Maori Battalion.

At 101 Bill Williams, formerly of Panmure, signifies everything great about this nation.

His fight – has long been.

He struggles now to stand, as he once did – so strongly.

He struggles to see, as he once saw – so clearly.

Yet he continues to join to honour his fallen mates.

Lance Corporal Bill Williams – We salute you.

I salute also Bill’s few remaining mates of the 28th Maori Battalion. Their story is one of great pride, sacrifice and mana.

Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, Commander of the 2nd New Zealand Division, said that:

“No infantry battalion had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties as the Maori Battalion.”

Over 90 years have passed since the ‘War to End All Wars’ yet we are still in a world beset by suffering, hatred and inequality.

Our men and women in uniform continue to serve across the globe today. We pray for their safe return.

ANZAC Day is a time to commemorate but also to celebrate…

It is also a day to focus on unity, nationhood, friendship and family.

As we gather at this cenotaph in front of a memorial built in 1929 to honour every New Zealander who served and died in battle, I am reminded of these immortal words written high on the walls inside – etched into the granite.

“Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten.”

Lest We Forget.