25 Apr 2024

WWI 'always part of our family histories' - Dame Cindy Kiro

7:36 am on 25 April 2024
National service Wellington

Dame Cindy Kiro at the Pukeahu National War Memorial in Wellington. Photo: RNZ

Dawn services are being held around the country this morning, as New Zealanders gather to remember those who gave their lives in combat.

Speaking from the Pukeahu National War Memorial in Wellington, Dame Cindy Kiro said 109 years after the landing at Gallipoli, Anzac Day still held deep significance for New Zealanders.

"Though we no longer have direct links to those who witnessed WWI, such was its impact that it will always remain part of our family histories and our collective memory," she said.

"Every New Zealand community has in some way been touched by our experience of war. More than 250,000 New Zealanders have served in war and peacekeeping operations - and of these, more than 30,000 have lost their lives, with many more wounded."

Dame Cindy also acknowledged the New Zealand Defence Force's courage and professionalism in high-risk environments, both at home and overseas.

"On this Anzac Day, as we reflect on the service and sacrifice of New Zealanders across our military history, our thoughts and prayers are with the families around the world who continue to experience the horrors of war.

"With our collective remembrance and steadfast belief in our common humanity, we strengthen our hope and resolve to do what we can to foster dialogue and understanding, and to heal divisions in our pursuit of peace."

Since the first Anzac Day on 25 April 1916, the scope of remembrance had expanded to include all other wars and armed conflicts in which New Zealand was involved, as well as ongoing efforts in peacekeeping.

It was the 30th anniversary of the completion of New Zealand Defence Force operations in Somalia, Dame Cindy said, where about 250 personnel played a vital role in the UN mission to protect humanitarian aid and restore peace.

It was also the 80th anniversary of a number of significant campaigns during WWII: Battle of Cassino, the New Zealand 2nd Division's role in the capture of Faenza, the RNZAF operations in the Pacific, and the New Zealand 3rd Division's involvement in operations against Japanese troops on Nissan Island, just north of Bougainville.

The number of WW2 veterans grew fewer each year, she said.

Police said they were expecting a busy weekend on the roads, as many would also take Friday off and head away.

It would be the second long weekend in under a month, after the Easter break, and the message remained the same for people behind the wheel - to do their relaxing once they had finished driving to their destination.

Meanwhile, speaking from Turkey, where the recent flooding at Dubai Airport had caused mayhem with luggage, leaving the New Zealand delegation without half its bags, NZDF's Gallipoli commemoration lead John McLeod said the show must go on.

He said 42 of the 65 bags had arrived. People had swapped uniforms around and they had a guitar on-hand, so they would still be able to take part in the ceremony - it would just look a little different.

"New Zealand's had tougher days on the Gallipoli peninsula than not having a few uniforms," he said. "It's all about the context, really."

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