Speech: Governor-General - Armistice Day
Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy
Governor-General of New Zealand
Armistice Day National Ceremony
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
Sunday 11 November 2018
E nga reo, tena koutou katoa. Greetings to all authorities and representatives.
Haere tonu mai tatau, i tenei ra, ki Pukeahu. Let us gather again, on this day, at Pukeahu.
Huihuia mai o tatau tini maumahara, i roto i te rangimarie, me te whakaaro pai. Let us gather together our many memories, in peace and goodwill.
I specifically acknowledge
The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister
His Excellency Mr Leasi Papalii Tommy Scanlan, High Commissioner for Samoa, and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Nicola Willis MP;
Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short;
Councillor Jill Day, Deputy Mayor of Wellington;
Renee Graham, Acting Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage;
The Chair and members of the National War Memorial Advisory Council;
Bob Hill, Vice-President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association;
Willie Apiata, VC;
Tēna koutou katoa.
By November 1918, New Zealanders had endured four long years of war. Some families had lost two, three or even four sons and thousands of men had returned wounded or shattered by their experience of war.
When the Governor-General, Lord Liverpool announced the signing of the Armistice from the steps of the Parliamentary Library, the news spread like wildfire.
And just as in many other countries – people spilled out into the streets, wild with joy.
The response was more muted amongst our soldiers at the Front. Many received the news quietly.
Field Artillery Gunner Bert Stokes, who was in the Forêt de Mormal, described the reaction of those who had borne the full brunt of battle:
There was no cheering. The chaps didn’t get excited. It was just a matter of relief. We didn’t celebrate at all.
Four years earlier, it was a different story. In the week following the declaration of war, over 14,000 men had enthusiastically volunteered for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Our citizen army represented all sectors of society – people who wanted to serve their country, and see the world.
Some teenagers couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on the opportunity and concealed their age in order to be eligible to go.
They didn’t know what they had signed up for.
One soldier who had managed to enlist as a 15-year-old, Lance Corporal Sydney Stanfield, said many years later:
I thought it would be a great adventure, and it’d be real fun. And so it was – up to a point. Past that point, it wasn’t funny at all.
The dreadful reality of war was felt in over 30 nations. An estimated 16 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives and untold others were left with lasting physical and psychological wounds.
Our soldiers had endured the horrors and privations of war on the slopes and gullies of Gallipoli, in the mud of the Western Front, and in the deserts of the Middle East.
Of the 100,000 who left our shores, nearly one in six did not come back, and still more died from their wounds in the years that followed.
Their sacrifice is recorded on school honour boards and war memorials – and etched into the memories of their grieving families.
This memorial park at Pukeahu, a lasting legacy of our First World War centennial commemorations, will be a place to remember the war dead of our country and of the nations that have shared our experience of war.
The United States memorial will soon join those of Australia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France. Early next year a Memorial to the Pacific Islands will recognise the service and sacrifice of our Pacific partners.
Today, a century on from the news of the Armistice, people and nations around the world are gathering as we are – to reflect and remember – and to celebrate the precious gifts of peace.
The generation that lived the First World War is no longer with us, but their legacy will endure. We cherish their memory as we affirm the fervent hopes of our forebears 100 years ago – hopes for peace and a better world for all.
Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou
We will remember them.