Anzac Day: a time of remembrance and reflection

Published on 24 April 2023

Photo of Mayor Vince Cocurullo in the mayoral robe and chains.

Anzac Day gives us the chance to honour the service and sacrifice of our original ANZACs. Most importantly, it gives us the space and time to remember them.  

It was 4:30am on 25 April 1915, an hour before sunrise, that the first boats made landfall at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli. It was dark, silent, the noises of the oars were muffled as the boats quietly pulled onto shore. For the families far away in New Zealand, they could only wait, hope, and in many cases, pray, that their loved ones would be safe. 

Thousands of young men stormed the beaches that day, and more than 2000 ANZAC soldiers did not live to see dawn. Through historical records, we know at least 147 of those were New Zealanders, and over the course of the 8-month campaign, 2,779 New Zealanders (about a sixth of all those who had landed on the peninsula) lost their lives. I have also been informed that 290 of the lives lost in WW1 were from the Whangārei District.  

It’s also important to remember that this heralded the first Māori Contingent to be formed and placed into battle, landing at Anzac Cove on 3 July 1915, brought in to reinforce troops in this harrowing campaign.  

The Māori Contingent sailed from Wellington aboard the SS Warrimoo in February 1915. Of 461 Māori Contingent soldiers and 16 officers who fought at Gallipoli, only two officers and 132 men remained at the end. 

Te Rangi Hiroa, New Zealand doctor, military leader, health administrator, politician, anthropologist, museum director and prominent member of Ngāti Mutunga, recorded in his diary that the gallantry of Māori at Gallipoli had 'earned them the respect and admiration of the British troops'. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and nine other members of the contingent received military awards. 

Tomorrow, we remember all who served on behalf of New Zealand.  

Tomorrow is a time to reflect on historical bravery, sacrifice, and honour. It is also a time to look at current events overseas, at those countries suffering through continued or renewed conflict.   

Many around the world are still fighting for the same freedoms our forebears fought for. My heart goes out to the families living in war-torn areas, the civilians forced into armed combat, and to the soldiers who are fighting in wars they do not want to be in.   

Tomorrow is about honouring the generations of New Zealand service people who defended our values and freedoms, in wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations across more than a century of service. The role of the armed forces is as important now as it has ever been. While conflict continues to rage across our world, the dedication of these brave New Zealanders is something we should never take for granted.  

We have gratitude for all of those gone before, and we will remember their sacrifice and the sacrifices of those who loved them. Lest we forget!

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