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Gallipoli mateship fostered sacrifice

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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Apr 2008 12:45    Onderwerp: Gallipoli mateship fostered sacrifice Reageer met quote

The padre said it in his opening prayer at Chunuk Bair and the Prime Minister later in her speech - that the New Zealanders went to war at Gallipoli and elsewhere because they wanted to bring peace to the world.

As the 90th anniversary New Zealand National Service proceeded on Anzac Day, I thought I heard the sound of laughter from the sky where the spirits of our men who fought and suffered and died here gathered above the imposing memorial monument.

"Nah," I heard them say. "We didn’t do it for peace.

"Some of us went because we were bored with our lives and wanted to see the world and have some adventure. Some of us did it to prove ourselves men.

"Others did it to get away from moaning wives, persistent girlfriends or screaming kids, to have a bit of fun with the boys well away from home.

"But most of us did it out of a sense of duty to King and Empire and country which had been drilled into us from the time we were born; and a lot of us went because our mates did.

"We didn’t go to bring peace, we went to fight a war that was threatening old England, the place we still called Home. We went to knock the socks off the blighters who were threatening the security of the British Empire.

"Why don’t they tell it like it was, instead of the way they would have liked it to be, these peace-obsessed people?"

There was a lot of talk of peace by politicians and parsons during the Anzac services on the peninsula over the two days of celebrations but not, I noted, from the generals and admirals and air marshals.

Eventually it was our ambassador to Turkey, Jan Henderson, who put it in perspective in her welcoming address on Monday at Chunuk Bair. She said: "A New Zealand visitor recently said of this place: ‘What kept New Zealanders going? What gave them the courage to stand up in the face of a daily torrent of fire that meant certain death?

"‘Was it love of King and Empire? Was it the officers who led them? Was it raw courage? What was it?

"‘The only thing that was real and sustaining on the hills and beaches of Gallipoli was their mates. They were the sense of life in the face of death, strength when they had none left, and courage when it was all used up.

"‘And if you hadn’t experienced what they experienced, then you would never understand - as we will never understand’."

And I thought I heard shouts of "hear, hear" and a round of applause from the blokes up above, some of whose bones still litter the slopes.

But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the constant harping on about peace. As the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel is recorded in the Bible as saying of the false prophets of his age: "They have seduced my people, saying, peace, peace, and there is no peace".

For all that, the ceremony was an impressive affair, made the more so by the presence of Prince Charles. It was a bit odd that although he arrived first and left first, for the rest of the time he came only second.

The crowd was not asked to stand when the Prince arrived but they were when Helen Clark walked in, while trying to avoid looking at a naked (except for tattoos) Maori male bum. That was a bit on the nose, if you’ll pardon the expression.

The Prime Minister was addressed before the Prince by every speaker and I began to wonder if, instead of a republic, we are eventually going to have a different queen.

It was the performance of our military that really impressed me, from the slow-marching catafalque party with their weapons reversed, to the honour guard and the band and the trumpeter and the dress and demeanour of all ranks on the ground.

They certainly outclassed their equivalent Aussies who did their things at Anzac Cove that morning.

The feature of the day for me was the presence at Chunuk Bair of so many young New Zealanders.

It was comforting to see them there, free of schoolteachers and university pedants, for they were unable to avoid a stern and valid lesson in their nation’s fundamental history.

They might even have gone forth from that sacred place with a new understanding of what things like patriotism, duty, honour, courage and sacrifice really mean.

And that virtues such as those never change.

The spirits fell silent when the Last Post rang out and I suspect returned to that part of paradise to which God has assigned them.

I give the last word to Ambassador Henderson. "Each of us," she said, "has to find our own meaning in the way these men lived and died. We owe them that much."

We do, too. Age might weary me, the years might even condemn. But for whatever remaining number of days God gives me, I shall remember them.
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