CDF Speech: Anzac Day Dawn Service

Ko te Ope Kātua o Aotearoa e!
We are the NZ Defence Force!

He toki nā Tū
We are the instruments of Tūmatauenga (We fight on the battleground)

He toki nā Rongo e,
We are the instruments of Rongo-ma-Tane (We carry out peace missions)

Mate atu he toa
If a warrior should fall…

Ara mai rā he toa!
Another shall rise to take his place

Ngā rau e toru o te patu kotahi e!
We are the three edges of the blade of a single patu

Tihei Mauri Ora
Alas, the breath of life

The Honourable Sir William Young, and Lady Susan, Minister Robertson, other Distinguished Guests, Veterans and Service-People, Ladies and Gentlemen, and I wish to especially acknowledge the young New Zealanders here this morning.

We are gathered here today at this our National War Memorial, a towering symbol of the cruel toll exacted by the terrible wars of the twentieth century on our homeland.

1918 was an especially hard year for New Zealand, in which we suffered nearly 19,000 battle casualties, including 5,222 dead — more than in any other year in our history.

But this memorial also represents how New Zealanders feel about the sacrifices our nation has made in the defence of freedom and the international rule of law.

Over more than a century New Zealanders have shown that when necessary, we will put aside our peacetime lives to defend those values our nation holds most dear.

We do not seek to glorify war, but we can acknowledge the courage, commitment, and sacrifice of those who have served their country well with honour and pride.

And so these morning ceremonies have become far more than just a tribute to those who fought in the campaign at Gallipoli.

They have become a tribute to the sacrifice made by all those who have served New Zealand in times of war: the First and Second World Wars, and other conflicts, including Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan.

In 2018, the New Zealand Defence Force has men and women deployed across the globe who uphold these same values — they serve New Zealand with loyalty and honour.

Vitally, modern day service is not just in conflict zones, but includes lending the skills, experience and capabilities of our Defence Force every day of the year to tasks that matter to ordinary New Zealanders… protecting our oceans, undertaking search and rescue, responding to natural disasters, and supporting agencies as diverse as police, Conservation and Antarctic New Zealand.

So our people — New Zealand’s Defence Force — serve with professionalism and humility.

Often they work with the armed forces of other nations, who share our commitment to humanitarian values and the international rule of law.

And military service can exact a high price on individuals: it can leave lasting physical and, increasingly we recognise, mental scars.

It can see service people separated from their families and loved ones for long periods, and so places pressure and strain on relationships that most New Zealanders do not have to cope with.

It is important on this day that we remember the enormity of what we sometimes ask our service men and women to do, and endure, in the service of our nation. Only rarely does the true cost of their commitment and sacrifice for New Zealand become widely known.

Perhaps it has always been so?

At Gallipoli there were innumerable examples of selfless courage and devotion to duty. After the hellish start of the campaign, one New Zealand officer wrote: “The more I see and hear of our… medical officers, the more enormously I admire them. Their absolute unconscious heroism is a thing to be astonished at… simply and quietly they do their job.”

Few of the New Zealand officers and soldiers who went ashore at Gallipoli in 1915 had ever experienced battle before.

They all wondered how they would stand the strain.

For officers there was the extra burden of command. They had a responsibility to lead and to make decisions quickly, with limited information, while at the same time grappling with their own fears.

The day after the landing, Captain Jesse Wallingford was pinned down with a group of Australian soldiers on the key position of Walker’s Ridge.

He knew he was fairly safe where he was, but that to save the situation he needed to lead a counter-attack.

He hesitated and “a tug of war” between his fears and desire to do his duty ensued.

Wallingford’s determination to do his duty — to do the right thing by the men under his command — eventually drove him forward.

He was terrified, as he later said, “every step up that ridge”.

Wallingford’s leadership and bravery led to the securing of Walker’s Ridge, without which the ANZAC beachhead would have been untenable.

It is a story of courage… of an ordinary New Zealander being asked to do extraordinary deeds.

So Anzac Day is a special, solemn day when we remember and honour those who serve and have served New Zealand… These ordinary New Zealanders all, doing extraordinary things.

For many New Zealand families, Anzac Day will bring to the surface the pain of loss as loved ones are remembered, and that grief will be especially raw for those coping with bereavements from recent conflicts like Afghanistan.

So I ask you to also take a moment to think about the families here in New Zealand, especially those families of the men and women currently serving their country in foreign lands.

Let me conclude by observing that for those who have, or are currently serving, this is a day when we reflect on our history and the responsibility we have as individuals, and collectively as the Defence Force, to our nation.

In the New Zealand Defence Force we hold to the ideal that loyal and honourable service to our country is enduring.

To those in uniform today, these are not some set of quaint and antiquated notions — they are beliefs that motivate and drive our service and commitment to being a Force for New Zealand.

So today our ANZACs, and all who have served — and continue to serve — are held close in our hearts and minds.

We will remember them.


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