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PM Address: VE Day Wreathlaying Ceremony

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at Wreathlaying Ceremony to Commemorate Sixtieth Anniversary year of the End of World War Two In Europe and the Pacific In the presence of His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales

Auckland Cenotaph Auckland War Memorial Museum


Sunday 10 July 2005
Today, 10 July, marks the commencement in the United Kingdom of a week-long programme of activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

New Zealand stood shoulder to shoulder with the United Kingdom from the first day of that terrible conflict to the very last.

The Second World War was New Zealand's greatest national effort to date. Out of a population of 1.6 million, around 140,000 men and women were dispatched overseas to serve in fighting formations. Our fatal casualties during the conflict numbered 11,625 – a higher ratio of people killed than in any other Commonwealth country. New Zealand devoted a very high proportion of its resources to the war effort: about thirty per cent of national income overall, with the figure rising to fifty per cent during the critical years 1942 to 1944.

Having contributed so much to the Allied effort, it was fitting that our soldiers took part in the final battles which led to the end of the war in Europe. They fought on the battlefields of Italy, and had reached Trieste when the capitulation came in May 1945. Thousands of our seamen and airmen were also attached to the Royal Navy and RAF and they distinguished themselves in battles which contributed so much to the Allied victory, not least the Battle of the Atlantic and the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, New Zealanders were fighting the Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands. Other New Zealanders served in the British Pacific Fleet which took part in the final operations against Japan. So did our cruisers, including HMS Achilles, whose famous victory at the Battle of the River Plate had boosted the morale of the whole Commonwealth early in the war.

New Zealanders at home also contributed to the campaign against fascism and militarism. In 1945, they continued to produce the food supplies on which the United Kingdom depended, and endured the rationing needed to ensure that the maximum help was made available. New Zealand continued to send food help to the United Kingdom long after the guns fell silent.

VE and VJ Days ended a chapter in our two countries’ histories which will always be remembered with sadness for the many lives lost, but also with a sense of pride in our achievement in standing together in adversity, and eventually prevailing to the benefit of the whole world.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, along with other members of the Royal Family, is leading many of the commemorations of the end of the war taking place in the United Kingdom today. It is in recognition of the New Zealand sacrifice and contribution that the Queen has asked His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales, to be her formal representative at this ceremony today.

On behalf of the government and the people of New Zealand, I thank Prince William for his presence today. It is especially fitting, given the role played by Prince William's great grandparents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, during the war that he is here today as their direct descendant to honour the New Zealand contribution to the defeat of fascism and militarism. The King and Queen's dedicated service to the whole Commonwealth during the war was greatly admired in this country and throughout the allied nations.

To our veterans here today, we honour your service and the sacrifice of your comrades who never came home. May they rest in peace.

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