By Mark Mitchell, Rodney MP
Anzac Day was a chance for us to reflect on the effects of a war which touched the lives of every New Zealand family, and honour our veterans’ contribution to the peace, freedom, and security our country enjoys today. A century ago this month the Government of the day announced a half-day holiday, to be known as Anzac Day, would be established on 25 April. As it is today, this was a way for our communities to come together and remember those who lost their lives and the scale of the impact war had on our population of just over one million.
As time has passed, Anzac Day has come to symbolise not only recognition of those who lost their lives at Gallipoli but of all our servicemen and women who have served in various conflicts and peacekeeping efforts over the years.
Remembrance services were once again held across Rodney electorate. I was able to attend the dawn service at the Hibiscus Coast Community RSA, in Stanmore Bay, this year. Rodney’s services are growing in numbers of attendees and in the locations that they are held yearly. Many local families can clearly trace their ancestor’s brave efforts in the Great War. Roughly 256 servicemen left the Rodney region to serve in the First World War; this had a great impact on our communities in a time that they were at their fruition.
While there are no soldiers alive who served in the First World War, the experiences of New Zealanders from that war are relevant to us today. This year is the second of four years of commemorations marking the Great War. In September we will turn our attention to marking the centenary of the horrific Battle of the Somme, where 6000 of our soldiers were wounded and 2000 were killed. The contribution that New Zealand made in France during the First World War in 1916 will be commemorated overseas across three services.
I hope you were all able to use Anzac Day to reflect on our country’s experience of war and military conflict and to honour the more than 18,000 New Zealanders who died, and the more than 100,000 who served their country during the Great War. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served our country to protect the ideals we hold dear. Lest we forget.