We will remember them

25/04/2012

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.


Her story

25/04/2009

I was working in a cake shop in Dunedin when war broke out in September 1939 and  started doing a night a week in the casualty ward at hospital.

 

I  later did seven days’ training in a surgical ward and became a member of the Edith Cavell nursing division.  Still, working full time I had to attend  lectures, and practise bandaging.  One night a week the volunteers were drilled by an army officer and taken on route marches.

 

In 1943 I was called up and with four others and posted to Trentham. I hadn’t been further north than Timaru before and was glad to have Violet who I’d met before on the journey.

 

The new recruits were met by a sergeant at the Wellington ferry terminal who issued their uniforms: men’s greatcoats, battledress, rain coats and boots.

 

We then continued by train to Trentham where we found our 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.

 

My duties at the camp hospital included polishing with heavy, covered blocks called bulldozers. I also had to polish the copper steriliser with vinegar and salt and everything had to be ready for inspection by the matron and colonel in charge.

 

The volunteer aids were called on for injection parade and after receiving our own jabs we were expected to look after the men receiving theirs. The men were allowed to faint, but we weren’t!

 

When I read these notes, written by my mother there are so many questions I wanted to ask her, but she died in 2001. If you have parents, grand parents who are still alive, you might learn from this and show an interest before it’s too late.


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