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John Key’s Speech at Dawn Service in ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli

John Key’s Speech at Dawn Service in ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli

On this beach, on this day, at this hour, exactly 100 years ago, the first Anzac troops came ashore.

Instead of the open spaces that had been described to them, they landed here with steep hills rising in front of this narrow beach.

And in those hills, Ottoman Turkish soldiers were already positioned and ready to defend this land.

We New Zealanders rarely think of ourselves as anyone’s enemy, or as aggressors.

But that’s exactly how those soldiers would have seen the Anzac and other Allied troops on April 25, 1915, and in the grinding months of fighting that followed.

We have coastlines similar to this at home.

If, for a moment, we imagine the situation reversed, we know that New Zealand soldiers would have been willing to lay down their lives to defend their country.

So, of course, were the Ottoman Turks.

Time and the perspective of history have cast the Gallipoli campaign, and some of the military decisions that were made, in a different light.

But 100 years ago, both sides were doing what they believed was right, and what they believed was necessary.

There was something else the Anzac troops landing here at Gallipoli did not know as they first struggled onto this foreign soil.

It was that their bravery and unity would help to forge the Anzac bond and reputation that endures to this day.

I salute that, as I do the bravery of the troops who opposed them, and all those who fought on this peninsula.

The campaign waged here ensured that the name of this place would be written into the histories of New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Turkey, and the many other countries that fought here – never to be erased.

Since then, New Zealanders have fought on many other battlegrounds, with similar courage and tenacity.

Everywhere a New Zealander has died serving our country is part of our history.

As the centenary of the First World War progresses, we will remember many battles in many different places.

But here today on this special anniversary we remember Gallipoli.

The very name is evocative.

Gallipoli to us Kiwis means not only this sea, this beach, these cliffs and the narrows across the hills.

It means the names and stories of more than 2,700 New Zealanders who died here, and the parents, wives and families who grieved for them, and the friends who said goodbye and didn’t know it was forever.

To us, Gallipoli is also a byword for the best characteristics of Australians and New Zealanders, especially when they work side by side in the face of adversity.

Gallipoli symbolises too, the pity of war.

Because while this was a place of courage and heroism and duty, it was also a place of fear and waste and loss.

It was a place where soldiers lived in a jumble of trenches, sometimes just metres apart from the opposing side, and constantly under fire.

It was a place of unspeakable suffering on both sides of the fighting.

The generosity of Turkey in welcoming us back here year after year, means that Gallipoli also symbolises the healing power of time, forgiveness and diplomacy.

We are grateful to the Turkish people and the Turkish government.

Each year our hosts accommodate and assist the many Australians and New Zealanders who come to see with their own eyes a special place in our countries’ history.

Often it is a special place in their family’s history too – where a great-grandfather, or a great-uncle served.

They come to see what he saw with his own eyes, 100 years ago, looking up from this very beach.

Usually at these commemorations we conclude by saying “‘Lest we Forget”.

But today, witnessed by all of you who have gathered here out of respect and remembrance, I will not say “Lest we forget”.

Because after one hundred years we can say, on this day

April 25, Two Thousand and 15,

“We remember”.

ENDS


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