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Anderton: Speech - Return of the Unknown Warrior

Hon Jim Anderton Progressive Party Leader

Speech on the Return of the Unknown Warrior

5.00PM Thursday, 11 November 2004. Parliament, Wellington


Along with thousands of other kiwis, a young New Zealander left these Pacific Islands to serve his country in uniform.

For this young man, the year would have been between 1914 and 1917. He would have been on a ship, sailing into a World War.

Let us imagine he was, like so many thousands of his peers, about 18 years old when he left. In today’s terms, that would be just leaving school - possibly a first year tertiary student, or just starting his first job. Of course, he left friends and family, loved ones all.

For all those loved ones who say farewell today as planes and ships take servicewomen and men abroad, and who crowd wharf and airport when they come back, the return of the body of this unknown warrior will also have special significance.

They know what it is like; and what it must have been like for the family of this young man, indeed for all of New Zealand.

Since he is an unknown warrior, we do not know whether this young man went straight to the front in France, or whether he had already been in the Mediterranean.

Perhaps he had even served under Colonel William Malone at Gallipoli and witnessed, even been part of, the extraordinary heroism of New Zealand’s greatest unsung warrior at Chunuk Bair - whose grave lies unmarked on the Gallipoli Peninsular.

But it does not matter whether this young man was ever actually in Gallipoli. What is important is the symbolism. The return of this unknown warrior, his tomb, represents New Zealanders who have served their country in uniform.

Wherever he had been, he was killed in his prime, in that bitter, muddy, trench-hell that was the front line in France.

A young New Zealander, part of that unique and emerging South Pacific tribe that we are increasingly recognising as Ngati Kiwi.

That we do not even know his name is the point.

Nameless, we honour him, and all who serve their country in peace and war.

Nameless, he represents those other New Zealanders whose bodies were never identified, some of whose graves are marked simply: “A soldier, known unto God”.

Nameless, he gives special identity to Colonel Malone and countless others of the First World War, the many from the Second World War, Vietnam, and in more recent times Private Leonard Manning killed in East Timor, and Major John McNutt, accidentally bombed whilst training in Kuwait.

Nameless, he invites those who stay behind, to remember, and to demand a world where we collectively seek peace whilst also defending freedom.

Nameless, he is returned, reclaimed, reburied in his own soil –

Nameless, he is at last named on his tombstone as “The New Zealand Unknown Warrior”.


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