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NZ Army Remembers Its Gallant Heroes

NZ Army Remembers Its Gallant Heroes


The ultimate price of being a soldier is to serve and die for your country.

On Sunday 9 November 2003 at 1000 hours the Chief of Army, Major General Jerry Mateparae, hosted a service at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul to mark the 85th anniversary of Armistice Day - the end of the First World War.

It was a stirring sight and a unique opportunity to see the entire regimental flags and colours of the NZ Army come together said Major Murray Brown, Army Public Relations Officer. The NZ Army Band also paraded with an impressive pipe and drum performance.

New Zealand Army soldiers slow-marched regimental colours and flags to the Cathedral’s Alter where The Very Reverend Dr Douglas Sparks (Dean of Wellington) conducted the service.

The First World War (1914 - 1918) was one of the most disastrous events in human history. New Zealand, with a population of 1.1 million in 1914, sent 100,000 men and women abroad. 16,700 died and over 40,000 were wounded – a higher per capita casualty rate than any other country involved.

The coming of peace on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 brought blessed relief for all involved.

Remembrance Sunday has become a universal time of commemoration.

For NZ Army, this is a day of special reverence to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of all those who have died serving New Zealand in WWI and all other armed conflicts. It also propounds a sobering opportunity to remember our service people in other parts of the world, especially those currently serving on operational missions.

Guests at the 2003 Wellington Remembrance Sunday service included Her Excellency the Governor-General and Mr Peter Cartwright; the Hon. Mark Burton, Minister of Defence; Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, Chief of Defence Force; and other key dignitaries.


For further information contact Major Murray Brown, NZ Army Public Relations Officer on 021 5855 843 or 04 496 0285.


Armistice Day 2003 is the 85th anniversary of the signing of the armistice to end the First World War. A number of activities mark this occasion:

A Remembrance Sunday service at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on 9 November.

A wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at many local War Memorials throughout New Zealand on 11 November.

The RNZRSA Conference, ‘Zealandia’s Great War’: The conference, held in Wellington, confers on New Zealand in the First World War from 7-10 November.

The NZ Army Museum Passchendaele Exhibition, ‘A Descent into Hell’. The exhibition, tells the story of when more New Zealanders were killed in one morning than in any other battle in Gallipoli.


Remembrance Sunday offers the time to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of all New Zealander soldiers who have died for the freedom and quality of life we live with today. Our history is replete with statistics that identify the price of being a soldier:

NZ Wars – 560 soldiers of the Crown killed, 1050 wounded; 2200 Maori (estimate) killed, wounded not recorded Boer War – 288 killed, 166 wounded WWI – 16,697 killed, 41,317 wounded WWII – 6,839 killed, 16,543 wounded Korea – 33 killed, 79 wounded Malaya – 9 killed, 9 wounded Vietnam - 35 killed, 187 wounded

Peace support operations since 1971 have been less severe, although there has still been a price with 5 soldiers killed in East Timor.


1919 – Introduction of the Silent Tribute

On the first anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1919, the Two Minutes silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony in Whitehall – London.

King George V had personally requested all the people of the British Empire to suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the Armistice. The Two Minute silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.

1920 – Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

On the second anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1920, the commemoration was given added significance with the return of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front. Unknown soldiers were interred with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London and at the Ard de Triomphe in Paris.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey attracted over one million people, within a week, to pay their respects.

Most other allied nations adopted the tradition of entombing unknown soldiers in their capitals over the following decade: Washington, Rome and Brussels in 1921, Prague and Belgrade in 1922, and later Warsaw and Athens.

However, the New Zealand government rejected a proposal in 1921 for New Zealand to have its own Unknown Warrior on the grounds that the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey represented New Zealand’s war dead.

During the 1940s and 1950s the NZRSA renewed the call for New Zealand to have its own Unknown Warrior or even Unknown Warriors, one to represent each World War, although without success.

1919-45 – Armistice Day in New Zealand

While eventually overshadowed by ANZAC Day, it was marked solemnly in New Zealand with the traditional Two Minute silence at 11am, when pedestrians and traffic stopping in the streets to observe the silence. The observance of two commemorative days symbolised New Zealanders’ emerging sense of national identity, albeit within the wider context of the empire. Armistice Day was shared with the empire; Anzac Day belonged to New Zealand (and Australia).

1925: First Rose Day

In 1925 Wellington RSA instituted the inaugural Rose Day, which raised funds for Wellington Citizens’ Memorial. In later years many RSAs held their Rose Days in order to raise funds for many community as well as RSA projects (and in contrast to the Poppy Day Appeal, which was solely for the welfare of returned service personnel and dependants in need).

By 1944, the Dominion Council of the NZRSA was encouraging the holding of Rose Day on a nationwide basis on the Friday before Armistice Day.

1946: Introduction of Remembrance Day

After the Second World War, the British and her Dominions, including New Zealand, agreed to change the name and date of Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, now observed on the Sunday prior to 11 November.

Armistice Day was no longer viewed as an appropriate title for a day, which would commemorate all war dead. In short, Remembrance Day Sundayised the observance of Armistice Day.

For the first Remembrance Day in 1946, New Zealanders were requested to commemorate Remembrance Day with traditional services and Two Minute silence at 11am, when citizens and vehicles were to halt in the streets. On the while, Remembrance Day was observed in this manner during the later 1940s.

By the mid 1950s, however, the public gradually lost interest in commemorating Remembrance Day despite the best efforts of the RSA, including an unsuccessful approach to government to revert back to an observance on 11 November.

The RSA believed that the decline of Remembrance Day was a result of the Sundayisation and the loss of the association with the eleventh hour of 11 November.

Armistice Day again

Since the 1990s the United Kingdom and many countries of the Commonwealth have increasingly returned to commemorate Armistice Day 11 November because the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ has so much significance.

In 1995, for example, the Royal British Legion embarked on a campaign for the reintroduction of the Two Minute Silence on 11 November at 11am, which steadily gained momentum to the point where today it is estimated that three-quarters of the population of the United Kingdom participate in the observance.

In Australia, meanwhile, the interment of an Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993 brought renewed attention to the day an in 1977 Australia’s Governor General issued a proclamation formally declaring 11 November Remembrance Day and urging all Australians to observe one minutes’ silence at 11am on 11 November each year.

In New Zealand too, since the 75th Anniversary of the Armistice in 1993 was commemorated throughout the country, the RSA has promoted the observance of 11am on Armistice Day with remembrance services at the National War Memorial and at local war memorials throughout the country. Source: www.nzrsa.org.nz

Remembrance Sunday

This is a day of special reverence to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of all those who have died serving New Zealand in this war and all wars and armed conflict. It commemorates the duty, honour and loyalty of New Zealanders that have given us the freedom and quality of life we live with today.

Remembrance Sunday has become a universal time of commemoration when we remember all men and women who have died in the service of their country. We also take this opportunity to remember our service people in other parts of the world, especially those currently serving in various operational missions.

They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We shall remember them.

- Fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’

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