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Goff Anzac Day Speech At NZ Service, Chunuk Bair

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes

24th April 2001


Nga mate, nga aitua, o koutou araa o matou, ka tangiha e tatou e tenei wa. Haere, haere, haere. Te hunga ora, tena koutou

We mourn at this time our dead and yours.
We farewell them. We greet the living.

Today, we commemorate a campaign which began at dawn at Anzac Cove 86 years ago and the battle which took place here at Chunuk Bair on 8-10 August 1915.

We are here to keep faith with those who fought, who suffered and who died for their country during that campaign and that battle.

The young men who arrived at Anzac Cove on 25 April had embarked from New Zealand and Australia to fight a war on the other side of the world. They were supposed to be on their way to Europe, but while temporarily stationed in Egypt were diverted here.

Their task was to clear Turkish land defences so that British war ships could force open the Straits of the Dardanelles and open up a supply route to Russia.

From the start as they sought to capture and defend the heights above the Anzac landings, the fighting was bitter and bloody.

On the first day alone, the New Zealand force suffered 600 casualties out of an initial echelon of 3,100.

As in Europe the campaign in Gallipoli degenerated quickly into trench warfare, with neither side able to defeat the other.

The conditions were appalling, with constant threat of death by sniper fire or shells, compounded by thirst, heat and disease.

On 7 August, New Zealand troops spearheaded an attempt to break out of encirclement. In the first attack, the Auckland, Otago and Canterbury Battalions were pinned down and suffered heavy losses.

Before dawn on 8 August the Wellington Battalion attacked with fixed bayonets and succeeded in driving Turkish defenders from the heights.

As dawn broke, New Zealanders could see through to the Dardanelles, the objective of the invasion.

Chunuk Bair was the crucial position which might determine the outcome of the campaign. As New Zealand historian, Chris Pugsley put it “the thin line of New Zealand men was holding wide the door to victory.”

Recognising this threat, the Turks threw repeated attacks against the New Zealanders.

As the blazing hot day wore on “the top of the gully filled with hundreds of wounded and the slopes behind the Wellington trenches were littered with dead and wounded.”

At 9 am the Auckland Mounted Rifles fought their way to the top and reinforced the beleaguered Wellingtonians on their right.

Late in the day the Otago Battalion and the Otago and Wellington Mounted Rifles reinforced the front line below the crest of Chunuk Bair.

By that stage, the Wellington Battalion had been virtually destroyed: of the 760 men who captured Chunuk Bair in the morning only 70 remained alive and unwounded.

9 August was the climax of the battle. All day the New Zealanders fought off repeated attacks from the front and on the flanks.

Behind us on the hill is the New Zealand memorial which records the names of 852 New Zealand soldiers who died in the battle for Chunuk Bair and have no known grave.

The surviving New Zealanders, spent beyond human endurance, were relieved during the night of 9 August, after they had held the slopes of Chunuk Bair for 36 hours.

At dawn on 10 August, the two British battalions which replaced them were driven back by relentless Turkish counter-attacks and the position was lost.

Chunuk Bair was the high water mark of the assault and any remaining hope of victory ended here.

In December, the expeditionary force was finally withdrawn with nothing to show for the lives which had been lost.

Of 8556 New Zealand soldiers who served on the Gallipoli peninsula, 2721 died and 4752 were wounded, a casualty rate close to 90%.

For a small country with a population in 1915 of only one million, this was a human tragedy on an unprecedented scale which affected almost every New Zealand family.

Those who fought here would be embarrassed to hear us speak of their heroism and sacrifice. As Pugsley said, “The New Zealander fought on Chunuk Bair as he had lived. It was another struggle like breaking in the land or clearing the bush. He fought in he same way he played rugby, completely professional despite his amateur status.”

As we stand here 86 years later, we remember a tragedy in which young lives - many in their late teens and early twenties - were senselessly lost.

Anzac Day does not seek to glorify war. That is not what those who suffered and died here would want.

What we do honour on this day is the courage of those who were prepared to die rather than let their mates down.

We remember that it was here that New Zealanders first stood shoulder to shoulder with their Australian cousins, beginning a strong Anzac tradition which continues today in joint peace-keeping in East Timor, Bougainville and the Solomons.

We celebrate that from war and the respect that the Anzac and Turkish soldiers developed for each other came a post-war reconciliation and a lasting friendship between our countries, immortalised by the words of Kemal Ataturk.

Anzac Day is also remembered because it was from this place that New Zealanders for the first time began to think of themselves as a nation with its own identity.

Those who came here to fight for England and the Empire left thinking of themselves as New Zealanders.

Anzac Day has become the day on which we honour not only the young soldiers who died here, but all New Zealand servicemen and women who fought and died for our country.

Most of all, Anzac Day is the day on which we cherish peace.

As a small country we have time and again sent our young people to fight in distant lands. Today, we have servicemen and women contributing to peace-keeping efforts in 12 different countries.

Through this contribution and through our other efforts to end aggression, and to achieve world peace and nuclear disarmament, we continue to strive for a world in which we, our children, and all other peoples can live free from the threat of violence and suffering.

The inscription on the New Zealand memorial says of those who died here that they came from the uttermost ends of the earth.

This year, as every year, we as New Zealanders have made the journey to Gallipoli to keep alive the memory of what happened in this place and to recommit ourselves to achieving a world without war.

We will not forget.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


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