Goff: Auckland Regional Anzac Day Service Speech
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence
25 April October 2008
Auckland Regional Anzac Day
Service Speech –
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Today New Zealanders at home and around the world gather as we do every year to keep faith with those who have fought and died for our country.
By tradition we mark the day, 93 years ago, when New Zealand soldiers landed at dawn at Anzac Cove at the start of the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War.
As a young country of barely one million people at that time, the Gallipoli campaign had a deep and lasting impact on New Zealanders.
Of 8556 New Zealand soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, 2721 died and 4752 were wounded, a casualty rate of close to 90 per cent.
The loss and maiming of so many of our young men was a human tragedy on an unprecedented scale, affecting almost every family and community in New Zealand.
Yet out of the disaster of Gallipoli emerged the Anzac legend of steadfast courage under impossible odds.
Anzac Day does
not seek to glorify war.
That is not what those who suffered and died there would want.
What we do honour is the courage of those who served their country and were prepared to die rather than let their mates down.
Despite the trauma and sacrifice, the Anzac experience gave birth to a sense of nationhood. Those who left to fight for King and Empire returned home thinking of themselves as New Zealanders to a country more conscious of its national identity.
It was at Gallipoli too that New Zealanders first stood shoulder to shoulder with their Australian cousins, beginning a strong Anzac tradition which continues today in Timor Leste, the Soloman Islands and Afghanistan.
And we can celebrate that out of the bloody horror of the fighting at Gallipoli came reconciliation rather than bitterness, immortalised in the words of Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish commander at Gallipoli and later President of Turkey.
“You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears”, he said. “Your sons are now in our bosom and are at peace. After having lost their lives in this land, they have become our sons as well.”
On Anzac Day we honour not only those who fought at Gallipoli and in the First World War but all those who have served and those who sacrificed their lives for New Zealand.
Today many of us will be thinking of family members who never returned from war to raise families and enjoy the peace that they had helped secure.
In my own family, we think of my father’s youngest brother, John, killed in the Pacific in 1944 aged 19. And this Anzac Day for the first time we will be thinking of Matt, my nephew, killed in action in Afghanistan last November.
For my two sons, who this morning will be at the dawn service at Anzac Cove this will be a particularly poignant time as they remember their cousin.
Let us, this Anzac Day, pay tribute to all those who have served and died for their country. This is a day too when we should acknowledge the New Zealand service men and women who are currently serving in peacekeeping operations around the world, whose professionalism and commitment we should be proud of.
As a country, let Anzac Day be not only a time of remembrance but also a time to commit ourselves to strive for a world which can one day be free from war and injustice and where all people may live in peace.