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Tomb of the Unknown Warrior - Silvia Cartwright

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Eulogy - Dame Silvia Cartwright


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New Zealand's Unknown Warrior has been laid to rest at the National War Memorial in Wellington. The Unknown Warrior, who died in the First World War, was repatriated from northern France by a 90-strong defence force contingent.

Speaking at the interment ceremony, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright remembered the twenty seven thousand New Zealanders who died in wars in other countries. She said one third of those soldiers still lay in unmarked places, or in the graves of the unknown.

"Here is the young New Zealander who takes this place of honour for himself, and for those in his own or any war we have been a part of, where what we value, and what defined us, was defended. In honouring him, we honour too his family, their memories of a place and a time, with that saddest of words, ‘unknown’," Dame Silvia said.

"His was the hope that when the days, the years, of fighting were done, and the troop ships sailed south, he would return to what mattered most. To be with the people he came from. To live again with the coasts of his own country around him, among the hills he knew as a boy, in the streets where he had grown up. These are the simple things he left and gave his life for. And now we have brought him home."


FULL TEXT OF EULOGY

At the interment ceremony for the Unknown Warrior at the Tomb for the Unknown Warrior, Wellington

11-Nov-2004


E te toa matangaro.

O warrior without name.

Ko koe tetahi i haere ki te pae o te pakanga.

You were one of many who marched to the theatre of war.

Ko koe tetahi i timungia e te tai.

You were one of many taken by the ebbing tide.

Ko koe kua hoki mai ki to whenua, hei tohu aroha, mo ratou katoa kua riro i te mura o te riri.

You have come home to your land as a symbol of love for all who were taken by the flames of anger.

E te toa matangaro, e takoto, e moe, e okioki.

O unknown warrior, may you now rest in peace

Twenty seven thousand of our people, twenty seven thousand New Zealanders, have died in wars in other countries. One third still lie in unmarked places, or in the graves of the unknown. Today, in the respect and feeling we bring to the burial of one of these, we honour all those others whose names, like his, we shall never know. Yet what we do know is that he, like each of them, was one of us.

This young man left his country almost ninety years ago. He fought in the most savage war history had yet seen. He died, with countless thousands of other young men, on the Western Front in France, at the centre of that war’s devastation. He died wearing a New Zealand uniform, and shared with those he had left on the other side of the world his belief that the lives of many might be better, by risking his own.

His was the hope that when the days, the years, of fighting were done, and the troop ships sailed south, he would return to what mattered most. To be with the people he came from. To live again with the coasts of his own country around him, among the hills he knew as a boy, in the streets where he had grown up. These are the simple things he left and gave his life for. And now we have brought him home.

We think of how many he stands for, this unknown warrior, how many were like himself. And yet how individual he was. We wonder, as we bury him, what was he like, this boy, this man? Did he come in from some distant camp, or along a northern beach, or walk out of the bush, to enlist for what he believed was right? Did he close the gates on a milking shed for the last time, before setting off to town? Did he leave a factory bench or an office desk, park his truck and give his mate the key, walk from the classroom where he taught, or put down his tools, thinking it would not be long until he came back to them? Or cross the plains where he had spent his life, and was farewelled by the singing on his marae, or by a service in his church? Did he get a lift to the local station, and see his family on the veranda as the train went past? Or catch the last sight of his parents or his children, his wife or his girlfriend, waved at from a carriage window, from the deck of a departing ship?

He could be any of those young men. He may have been remarkable or ordinary. He may have loved parties, or was one who liked to be alone. He may have walked for miles to borrow a book, or counted the days to next Saturday’s game, or worried about his job, or hoped the girl on the tram would talk to him. What he wanted was what the young always and rightly expect – to live in peaceful times, to work at what he chose, to be with those he loved.

Here is the young New Zealander who takes this place of honour for himself, and for those in his own or any war we have been a part of, where what we value, and what defined us, was defended. In honouring him, we honour too his family, their memories of a place and a time, with that saddest of words, ‘unknown’. I end with what a soldier at the end of the Second World War wrote of his contemporaries. They are words that ring as true of any generation, of those New Zealanders who put their lives at risk for what makes us the people we are.

‘Everything that was good from that small remote country had gone into them – sunshine and strength, good sense, patience, the versatility of practical men. They had confidence in themselves – knowing themselves as good as the best in the world could bring against them. And they marched into history.’

It is one of these we now commit to his country’s most honoured grave. After almost a century, he has come back. Because of him, home is a better place.

ENDS

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