We will remember them

The Maheno war memorial  records the names of 42 men who died in WWI, a plaque at the entrance to the reserve records the names of those who died in WWII.

Each Anzac Day people gather at this and other similar memorials around the country to remember.

At this morning’s service about 40 people from young children to the elderly came.

One young woman paid tribute to her grandfather, a returned service man who was there.

I’d been asked to give the address. I said:

On Anzac Day we remember and revere heroes and  acts of extraordinary bravery.

Today we also remember and pay tribute to the ordinary people who answered the call, who served and sacrificed, overseas and at home.

One of those was a young Scot who came to New Zealand to work in the Haka Valley during the depression.

He joined the Otago Mounted Rifles as a territorial. When war broke out the following year he enlisted with the 20th Battalion and served with them in Egypt and Italy. 

He was badly burnt when a tank exploded and spent a fortnight in a saline bath. He was also taken prisoner but managed to escape and find his way back to allied troops. He was one of the soldiers described by Battalion commander Jim Burrows as those magnificent men after the break out from Minquar Qaim.

He didn’t talk much about what the war was like – but a photo illustrates it: It shows him with four others from a company of 120 who started the battle of Ruweisat Ridge. These five were the only ones left for the survivor’s parade at the battle’s end.

When his active service finished after the Battle of Casino, he stayed with the New Zealand army and was posted to London as a driver.

While he was away, she was serving at home.

When war broke out she began working a night a week at casualty and also attended first aid classes.

In 1943 she was called up by the army and posted to Trentham.

The new recruits were met by a sergeant at the Wellington ferry terminal who issued their uniforms: men’s greatcoats, battle dress, rain coats and boots. They then continued by train to Trentham where they found their new homes were unlined huts some distance from the ablutions. It wasn’t unusual to wake on winter mornings to find flowers frozen in the vases.

Her duties at the camp hospital included polishing. Everything had to be ready for inspection by the matron and colonel in charge.

The volunteer aides were called on for injection parade and after receiving their own jabs were expected to look after the men receiving theirs.

These two people were my parents. When the war ended Dad returned to New Zealand to take up a rehab apprenticeship as a carpenter and Mum trained as a nurse.

Their service to their country and community continued throughout their lives through the church, a variety of voluntary organisations and in many informal ways, typical of their generation.

It is easy when headlines are so full of the ills of the world to think that younger people don’t have the same selflessness.

But last night the RSA gave the award of Anzac of the Year to the Student Volunteer Army, reminding us that the youth of today can and do put others before self.

These young men and women are of similar ages to the people we remember today. The ones who gave so much in war that we might live in peace.

We haven’t been called to serve as our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were, but we owe it to them and the future for which they fought to do what we can to make the world a better place in big ways or small.

We can’t all be heroes but we can all serve.

3 Responses to We will remember them

  1. Richard says:

    A very moving address
    My mother was a nurse. She used to recall how all the nurses got infuriated about the superficial – i.e. cleaning of brass above tjhe health of the patient; she had a cynical view of some Doctor’s after the war – “pomposus pricks” she might have said if she not been so polite.
    Before she died two years ago she revealed that they would give patients champainge to lift their morale. So in her later life her children supplied her quarter bottles.
    Jim Burrows, I think, went on to be Headmaster of Waitaki Boys High? He was a friend of my father who went on the command the 18th and 19th Armoured Regiments. My father said little about the war much to my frustration as a boy.
    Keeping Stock has a moving account about his father:
    Finally, there is book just published about the Otago Rifles written by historian Don Mckay
    Will see if I can find a reference to it


  2. homepaddock says:

    Sounds like our mothers would have had similar experiences, and views and have been similarly restrained in expressing them.

    Yes Jim Burrows was rector at Waitaki.

    I read KS’s post and like you found it moving.

    Beattie’s Book Blog has a post on the Book about the OMRs: http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/troopers-tale-history-of-otago-mounted.html


  3. Richard says:

    Thanks Ele – thats the book. We owe a debt to people like Don MacKay, who although earn their keep as historians, go that extra mile for us to enjoy and provide knowlege- good case for not throwing all books out—


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