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Howard's End Remembering Service Sacrifice Courage

To the memory of our hero comrade 'Murphy' (Simpson) killed May 1915. John (Murphy) Simpson Kirkpatrick leading a donkey along a cliff path. A wounded soldier is on the donkey. By Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones.

Howard's End: Remembering Service Sacrifice Courage

By Maree Howard

A little over a decade ago, when less than three hundred people gathered at a small cove in a land far away, many said that ANZAC Day would fade as the world progressed and globalisation took over, and yet, tomorrow more than 20,000 mostly young New Zealanders and Australians will remember with a mixture of awe and pride as they again stand shoulder to shoulder and watch the sun rise over that little cove called Gallipoli where New Zealand almost sacrificed its birthright. Maree Howard writes.

It's likely been said many times before but tomorrow we celebrate one of New Zealand's most cherished anniversaries and we remember that the flower of our youth was cut down while in young bud as only one in four of our beautiful lads returned from the hell of Gallipoli.

I was shocked as I listened to the radio this morning and heard a host say: "Coming up we talk to the President of the RSA about remembering our old people."

It was sad to hear that a seemingly young New Zealander saw ANZAC Day as nothing more than "Remembering our old people."

Yet the historian Charles Bean called casualties of the Gallipoli campaign the flower of our youth and tomorrow we remember and reflect on just how many young flowers were crushed in the course of our history

ANZAC Day is not about old people, it is an anniversary and a commemoration with many meanings and many dimensions. Specifically tomorrow marks the date of an heroic military landing on a Turkish beach: a landing that began a campaign that ended in a huge and costly defeat.

But it is also a day which has come to symbolise for all of us the service, the sacrifice, the courage, the integrity, the humour, and yes, the failings of all New Zealanders who have represented this country in a sad medley of wars and conflicts.

Tomorrow we should all take time out from our busy lives to reflect on all of those ventures, on all the sacrifices made by men and women who have voluntarily served this country in uniform.

Remembering and celebrating on ANZAC Day is not glorifying or thinking about war - or even supporting it. ANZAC Day for me is about reflecting about the spirit and legends of a nation which asserted itself at ANZAC Cove and intrigued outside observers like the poet John Masefield and the author Compton Mackenzie.

Its spirit then, like now, includes heroism, generosity and adventure. It also includes comradeship and sardonic humour.

So impressed were Masefield and Mackenzie by the demeanor of the ANZACS that they came to see them as a new breed of men, something in the mould of ancient Trojan heroes. For nobility of bearing, Masefield wrote, "they surpassed any men I have ever seen."

For both New Zealand and Australia one of the casualties of landing at ANZAC Cove was innocence. Both young nations went to war on the other side of the world and most thought it a great and romantic adventure.

But when war was over a whole generation of young men were lost. It was the loss of young men who could have become, Prime Ministers, judges, mayoprs, engineers, teachers, doctors, poets, inventors, farmers, leaders of trade unions, and the fathers of a whole generation of New Zealanders.

Instead of living many long years and bouncing their children and grandchildren on their knees into ripe old age, their young bodies lay stiff and cold in a far away land while their mothers, their fathers, their aunts and uncles, their brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and their sweethearts shed tears for years to come.

In many ways, though, Gallipoli represented the birth of nationhood. At Gallipoli New Zealand had its furst huge test in international company. At Gallipoli New Zealand came to terms with its own worth. The beginning of a genuine sense of Kiwi identity and self-esteem was born.

Clearly, ANZAC saw the birth of a legend. It was a legend forged by young men who a few weeks earlier had never even heard of the name Gallipoli. The legend was forged by living (and dying) to a simple code of loyalty and friendship. At Gallipoli a man was judged by his performance, not by his birth.

The ANZACS were generally an irreverent and self-mocking bunch particularly towards each other. They refused to give up, whatever the odds against them. They lived closely together and gave each other respect but never servility.

The ANZACS were mostly mere youths and, more than one of them, was just 14 years old - every one of them was a volunteer.

That volunteer ethic is fading in New Zealand but it used to be one of our most distinctive human resources. We have seen strong evidence of it in the past but, today, many community groups such as the surf-livesaving movement who patrol our beaches sometimes have difficulty recruiting dedicated young New Zealanders who have that ANZAC spirit.

Tomorrow, as hopefully you take time out to celebrate, commemorate and remember, ask yourself this question: Does the ANZAC spirit and legend continue to possess significance in a fast-changing world? Or does it simply represent a heroic exploit, a piece of history which just remembers old people and a revered but faraway component of our folklore?

For me, the answer is very clear. The truth is that the legend has transcended the exploit. At the heart of the legend lies the inherent qualities of the men who came ashore at ANZAC Cove. Their courage in the face of enormous odds, their generosity, their loyalty and their sesne of humour retains the capacity to unite us and light the way ahead.

At the going down of the sun and, in the morning, we will remember them. Lest We Forget.

© Scoop Media

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