Don Brash - Address to Anzac Day Dawn Service
Don Brash National Party Leader
25 April 2005
Address to Anzac Day Dawn Service 25 April 2005, Wellington
Ninety years ago today, in the dawn light, a group of extraordinary young New Zealanders and Australians landed on a strange beach, thousands of miles from their homes and families.
The national identities of New Zealand and Australia were forged on that day – the 25th of April 1915 – as our young soldiers came ashore at Gallipoli during the First World War.
It was a potent symbol of the growing consciousness of our own identity, a proud statement of our growing nationhood.
Colonel William Malone, commander of the Wellington Battalion, wrote in his diary of what his men faced upon their arrival at Gallipoli. “They were being sent to chaos and slaughter, nay murder,” he wrote.
He noted the terrible toll of that first day ashore. “My Battalion's casualties out of two and a half Companies, say 450 men, were about 45 killed and 150 wounded in about the first hour of action.”
William Malone himself died at Chunuk Bair less than four months later, on August 8th 1915.
In the space of a few months, over 14,000 New Zealanders served at Gallipoli. 2,700 of them died and remain forever in the tiny area of the Peninsula that now bears their name - ANZAC Cove.
Two-thirds of those brave men lie in unmarked graves, but their memory lives on to this day.
In the face of fierce opposition, they demonstrated loyalty, courage, determination, initiative and compassion. They earned the respect of both their allies and their adversaries.
The ANZACs reinforced their reputation throughout the Great War. At the Somme, Messines, Passchendaele, Gaza, Rafa and numerous other battlefields across France, Belgium, Palestine and the Sinai they distinguished themselves.
In all, 18,166 New Zealanders failed to return home from the First World War. Many more were wounded. Almost a generation of our best young men were lost, and their loss was a tragedy for their wives, their children, their families and their country.
Today is about remembering the ANZACs, and those that came after them. It is about remembering the sacrifices made by generations of New Zealanders to protect the way of life and the liberty we enjoy today.
New Zealanders also paid a high price in the Second World War, as they upheld the tradition and respect their fathers had earned just two decades earlier. From Arctic seas to the deserts of North Africa, New Zealanders distinguished themselves in every theatre of that war, fighting the evils of tyranny and oppression.
Once again we paid dearly. Over 140,000 New Zealanders left these shores to serve in the armed forces during the Second World War. 11,625 of them never returned.
Relative to population, New Zealand suffered more casualties than any other Commonwealth nation, including the United Kingdom.
Names and horrific images of places such as El Alamein and Cassino became etched into the psyche of our young nation.
New Zealanders continued to serve, and give their lives, in the conflicts of the second half of the 20th century: in Korea, in Malaya, in Borneo and Vietnam, the ANZAC spirit lived on as we continued to struggle to ensure that the values that we held were protected.
97 New Zealanders died in these conflicts. Many more served their country with great professionalism and bravery.
Today, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders come together at services across our two countries to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the tragedy of war and in the fight for freedom and democracy.
We gather also to show our support for the veterans of those conflicts, and to show our nations’ thanks for their suffering.
Because of their efforts, our two nations are amongst the oldest stable parliamentary democracies in the world.
We salute their willingness to fight to preserve our freedom and humanitarian ideals.
We gather to remember. We owe it to those who died then and to all those who have subsequently contributed to the defence of our nation, to reflect on the contradictions, the costs and the lessons of war.
And also to remember the ultimate lesson: that New Zealand should never be caught unprepared, that we should have strong defences, and work with like-minded allies to maintain safety in our region, whether the threat is from a belligerent state, or the sinister evil of our age, the international terrorist.
We should work diligently for peace, and to improve relations with countries in our region. But we dishonour the memory of the ANZACs if we allow our defence forces to atrophy in what is clearly an unstable international environment.
It is heartening to see more and more young people, and those who have never served in the armed forces, attending services around New Zealand. It shows a recognition that what we have today was built on the efforts of previous generations.
New Zealand has always stood ready to help friends and allies in the maintenance of peace and stability.
We have faced down tyranny and oppression and brought liberty, freedom and justice to many of the darkest corners of our sometimes fractious world.
That is why New Zealanders are currently serving in so many dangerous parts of the world.
Today, our thoughts are with those members of the New Zealand Defence Force currently serving in 11 different trouble spots, improving the lives of people in places such as Afghanistan, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Bosnia, Mozambique, Cambodia, the Solomon Islands, the Sinai and Iraq.
Conflict still plagues our world. That is why we must be ready to defend the principles our country was built on, and to alleviate the suffering war brings to the innocent. That is why our defence forces are so important, and why we must remember them today.
We celebrate the work of these fine New Zealanders, and wish them all a safe return.
Over the decades, our fighting men and women have endured great suffering and faced innumerable dangers. They have done what has been asked of them and served with bravery and honour. They have defended the values we hold dear, faced tyranny and oppression and defeated it. Many of them have paid for this great courage and service to their nation with their lives.
That is why we have gathered here today. That is why we honour them today. That is why we must never forget.