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RSA Endorses Gallipoli Commemoration

RSA Endorses Gallipoli Commemoration

August 29, 2013

With the centenary of the First World War only a year away this month, the Gallipoli commemoration is taking on an even greater significance for the Royal New Zealand RSA.

Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Clarke, says the RSA was established as a direct result of Gallipoli, the first such association to be formed in the world to look after the needs of returned soldiers and their families.

“Gallipoli was the catalyst for the RSA and the concept spread very quickly to other countries involved in the conflict,” Stephen Clarke says.

“The first Anzac Day commemoration was held in communities throughout New Zealand on April 25, 1916.”

With that in mind a pinnacle of the centenary is a commemorative tour back to Gallipoli and other Turkish landmarks planned by Stephen Parsons House of Travel in association with the RSA.

The tour is applauded by Stephen Clarke who sees it as “an authentic retelling of this historic event.”

“While there are no Gallipoli veterans left, the modern pilgrimage is about Kiwis understanding their history and sense of identity which makes it a very powerful experience,” he says.

In his own family, Stephen recalls his two great-great uncles, Paul and Cyril, who served at Gallipoli in the Otago Mounted Rifles.

The commemorative tour extends from Sunday, April 19 to Monday, April 27, 2015 and also includes sightseeing around Istanbul, the opportunity to pay personal tribute to fallen New Zealand POWs at the consulate cemetery and visits to the Temple of Athena and the ancient city of Troy, the scene of the Trojan wars.

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Since launching the tour House of Travel and the RSA has already received a hundred confirmed bookings out of a capacity of 200 people. Steve Parsons, whose House of Travel is based in Palmerston North, anticipates the pilgrimage will be booked out by early next year.

“For the first time in our history New Zealand and Australian forces were fighting under their own flag and not part of the British Empire,” he explains. “Landing on Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915, the Anzacs felt a sense of nationalism. The Anzac spirit was born there and survives to this day, both at home and on the Gallipoli peninsula.”

Steve’s own interest results were fuelled by a family grandfather, Birkett Hunter, who served with the Wellington Mounted Rifles and came ashore on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign. His own father fought in Egypt and captained the NZEF (New Zealand Expeditionary Forces) in their rugby internationals from 1941 to ’43.

“We’ll be participating in history as we commemorate the centenary of New Zealand becoming a nation and I wanted to be caught up in it because of family connections and my experience of leading people to where it happened,” Steve says.

The commemorative tour has an additional important factor. Travelling with the party will be Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, Christopher Pugsley, Senior Lecturer, Department of War Studies, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Historian Cliff Simons and the Chief Executive of the RSA itself, Dr Stephen Clarke, himself a military historian.

“The tour is significant in that it has the foremost military historians accompanying it to provide the authentic retelling,” he says.

Stephen Clarke has alerted the RSA movement and the tour is a feature of its annual conference in October where the importance of how big World War One was to New Zealand will be addressed.

“The pilgrimage is a wonderful opportunity to help Kiwis understand the spirit of the original Anzacs and realise their values of courage, commitment, camaraderie and compassion are still relevant today,” Stephen says.


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