Attending an ANZAC Day dawn service has long been on my ``good intentions’’ agenda.
This year I make it, albeit with help from my mate Ken Henderson who picks me up more than an hour before dawn. The Cranmer Square venue is abuzz when we arrive. We walk past the assembling parade of war veterans adorned with their medals and contemporary service men and women. Parade leaders are on horseback. Immaculately restored veteran army vehicles are amongst standouts.
The partially lit venue is unmistakably eerie.
This is especially so when navigating through some of the 14464 memorial crosses, one for every service person from the wider Canterbury region killed during 1916 and 1917. More will be added next year to cover 1918.
Further dire statics include a total number of New Zealand service men and women killed in WW1 being 16,687, or 58 per cent of those involved. Even more sobering when noting the total New Zealand population in 1916 being a mere one million.
This year marks the 102nd anniversary of Gallipoli landings. It is also the closest ANZAC Day to marking the centenary of Passchendaele, the most costly event, in terms of New Zealander lives lost, during WW1.
I learn a few things. Apparently office workers, and others, weary of typing Australian and New Zealand Army Corps coined the long-standing abbreviated ANZAC.
Also, the dawn service is appropriate because that is the typical time to expect an attack, hence troops are alert.
Pleasingly, the Australian component of ANZAC is worthily acknowledged with Australian representatives attending and our band and choir presenting a passable rendition of Advance Australia Fair.
The oldest war veteran attending is 104. I am pleased to hear of the attendance of the Japanese Consul of Christchurch, Mr. Mitsuru Murase.
So, what do I think of the experience in the chilly pre-dawn?
I suspect my thoughts, along with many others are of the wanton waste of, mostly, young life. Have we learnt anything re the futility of war?
I was brought up with the belief that those killed were sacrificed for democracy and for a better life for future generations. We can all appreciate that. Sadly, the lack of ideal reconciliation at the end of WW1 laid the foundation for the rise of Hitler and an even more savage WW2, ending with the first use of nuclear weapons.
I cannot help thinking of the many occasions when New Zealand rushed to join allied countries in conflict. I am thankful, these days, New Zealand has a more independent foreign policy beginning 30 years ago when the New Zealand Government passed legislation rendering New Zealand nuclear-free. I was too young to participate in world conflicts although many of the older generation Sinclairs did.
I appreciate being able to live my life during an era of comparative world freedom. I have seen friendships forged with former enemy nations and regularly meet people from those countries. Maybe my own appreciation of the era I have lived in is expressed in the peace movement I founded a dozen years ago – The New Zealand World Peace Bell. The bell is located in Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
On ANZAC Day the Christchurch Tramway offered its appreciation by offering war veterans free rides.