Huge crowds return to Anzac services

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Dame Trelise Cooper at Leigh.

Servicemen with the NZ Navy and Air Force marched over the Memorial Park bridge at the end of the Puhoi ceremony.
Servicemen with the NZ Navy and Air Force marched over the Memorial Park bridge at the end of the Puhoi ceremony.

At Matakana. Photo, Emma MacDonald.
At Matakana. Photo, Emma MacDonald.

Keith Tennant, left, and Thomas Dowling.
Keith Tennant, left, and Thomas Dowling.

After two years of cancellations and disruptions, Anzac Day 2021 dawned bright, warm and clear across the Mahurangi region, prompting an impressive turnout at local parades and services. Speakers at Puhoi – historian Richard Hern – and Leigh – JP Vince Anaki – reminded the crowds that New Zealand had, in both world wars, sent a disproportionately high percentage of its population to fight – and it had suffered correspondingly huge losses. Meanwhile, at Warkworth, RSA president Bob Harrison said the challenges and sacrifices of Covid-19 were in many ways similar to those of wartime.

“Just like in any war, we all had to do our part to defeat the enemy. Sacrifices were made, goods were rationed and travel plans were cancelled,” he said.

And he said Covid-19 sufferers could experience long-term effects, just like returned servicemen.

At every event, wreaths were laid by people of all ages, from young children to old soldiers, and respects were paid in a wide variety of ways, from traditional to quirky.


2021 Anzac Day speech

by Mahurangi College head girl Āniwa Heke

He honore ki te atua
Ki nga mate maha o nga pakanga nui
Moe Mai ra, moe mai ra, moe mai ra
Takahia te ara tika o tane

Ata marie koutou,
My name is Āniwa Heke

My great-great uncle Witi fought in WW2 as a soldier of the Māori Battalion which was a frontline infantry unit made up of volunteers. Dad said when he came back he was never the same. After seeing so much senseless death and destruction, it was as if he’d forgotten how to feel. Dad said he used to jump at loud noises, too. My grandfather said his uncle was never like that… until the war. Even though I never met him, I feel honoured to think of what my whānau contributed, as does every family here. I know, compared to more well-known speakers, my words might not mean as much but they mean something to my whānau, to my uncle Witi. Throughout the second world war 15,744 Māori volunteered for the armed forces, serving with distinction both at home and abroad. The total Māori population at the time was just under 100,000. More than 3,600 men, all volunteers, served with the Māori Battalion. The battalion suffered 2,628 casualties - 649 killed, 1,712 wounded and 267 taken prisoner or missing, almost 50% more than the New Zealand average. The unit received 99 honours and awards, the highest number among New Zealand infantry battalions. I read once, the German tank commander, General Erwin Rommel, said he could’ve won the war with a Māori battalion. The Māori battalion were known for their ferocity on the one hand, and their compassion for local people affected by the war, on the other. They were also known for their humour, and their extreme loyalty to each other. In the words of Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, who commanded the 2nd NZ Division, 'no infantry battalion had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties as the Maori Battalion.' Māori communities lost the best leaders through all the wars we’ve been a part of. I’ve heard similar stories about all the Kiwi soldiers - their compassion and their heroism. The Māori Battalion sailed for home on Boxing Day 1945. On their arrival in Wellington on 23 January 1946, they were welcomed as returning heroes, before dispersing to their home marae throughout the country. Their commander, Lieutenant-Colonel James Hēnare, dismissed his men with these words:

“Go back to our mountains, go back to our people, go back to our marae. But this is my last command to you all - stand as Māori, stand as Māori, stand as Māori.”

I sometimes wonder how people could give up so much, their lives, their loved ones, their children. Today, life seems so easy in comparison, and we stress if we can’t find our phones. Young men, not that much older than I am today, gave up so much so we could live in this beautiful, peaceful country - our land, our home. We owe those who fought in both WW1 and WW2, everything.

END WITH MĀORI BATTALION SONG

Maori Battalion march to victory
Maori Battalion staunch and true
Maori Battalion march to glory
take the honour of the people with you
we will march march right to the enemy
and we’ll fight right to the end
for God for King and for country AUE
ake ake kia kaha e
ake ake kia kaha e

Lest we forget.


2021 Anzac Day speech

by Mahurangi College head boy Nathan Strong

As 106 years recedes into history, and our last known veterans pass away, their names still remain etched in our memories. For the ones who have passed in the act of war, we celebrate your bravery, selflessness, and pure kiwi nature that has led to our freedom today. Whilst we move through the generations and this historical event sinks further into the past, the poppy, that represents our ANZACs, will never lose its essence. Life today is a reflection of the resilience, hard work and determination that those Kiwi soldiers showed when fighting for our country. Today I do not celebrate the Battle of Gallipoli. I do not celebrate the wars New Zealand has fought. Instead, I show my extreme gratitude to those selfless and heroic enough to sacrifice their life for the benefit of those around them, and those to come. And I take time to remember and reflect upon their sacrifice, so they and the lessons they taught us, are not lost in history.

By this definition of ANZAC day, I spend today remembering my elders and ones in my whanau who fought in the multiple wars we have had.

When I look to my fathers side, I see Arthur J. Strong, who as part of the Royal Navy, at age 23 went down with the HMS Hood in the battle of the Denmark Strait, 24 May 1941. They were sunk by the Bismark, which was one of two ships that were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, or any European power. For 20 year, the Hood was the largest warship in the world but in a battle that lasted less than 15 minutes she was split in two and sank in three minutes giving her crew no time to abandon ship. Out of a crew of 1,418 men, only 3 survived. This became a historic battle for the English with the Bismarck eventually retreating. I am honored to be able to still hold the name Strong. Although this is one incredible story, it is also important that I share the tale of my great grandfather, Edward Hodsell.

Edward was born in England 1890. At age 15 he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers from 1905 to 1926. In early 1914 he gained the rank ‘Lance corporal’, but that didn’t last long, as later that year he was then recognised as a C.S.M, a ‘company sergeant major’, a rank he retained until 1919. The Northumberland Fusiliers earned 67 battle honours and were awarded five Victoria Crosses, but at the cost of over 16,000 soldiers killed in action, and many thousands wounded. Edward’s 2nd Battalion was a regular army battalion, stationed in Sabathu, India as part of the 9th (Sirhind) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division at the outbreak of World War I. On 20 November 1914, they departed India, passing Plymouth in late December and proceeded to Winchester where it joined the 84th Brigade, 28th Division. Together they moved to the Western Front in January 1915 where they fought in the second battle of Ypres and the battle of Loos. He was listed as wounded on the 19th May 1915 while on duty in France and Flanders. He was entitled to wear a ‘wound stripe’ as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. But he carried on. Travelling through Salonika Front in November 1915 he then went to Bulgaria where he was part of the Occupation of Mazirko as well as three other capturings between the years 1916 and 1917. They then reorganized and went on to fight in the Battle of Dojranx in Macedonia and of the Strumica Valley in Bulgaria in 1918.

In June 1918, they left 28th Division and were transferred to France where they joined the 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division for the rest of the war. During the war, it fought in the following battles with 28th Division: Battle of the St Quentin Canal, Battle of the Beaurevoir Line, Battle of Cambrai and Pursuit to the Selle. This was before the Final Advance in Picardy where they fought in the battles of Selle and Sambre.

Edward fought in over ten battles and went on to tell the tale. In his early twenties he saw the hell of the world. During his journey he received five British First World War Service Medals - The 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, the Greek Military Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal Awarded for gallantry in the field. There was also mention in 1925 of a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal but I can’t confirm Edward ever received this. What a hero Edward is in my family's eyes.

After the war, many British ex-servicemen and their families arrived at New Zealand's ports - 13,000 of them - as assisted migrants. One of these families was Edward and Selena Hodsell and their two daughters. In 1926, he came to New Zealand hoping to be an army instructor but because of a shipping strike in Sydney he arrived too late to put in an application. He took up land in Waipu, then Dargaville until the depression drove him and his family off the land. After the death of Edward Hodsell in 1948, my 15 year old grandfather along with his mother and 5 siblings moved to Auckland. My grandfather eventually returned to the north where he met my grandmother and the story of my mother’s side of the family grows from there. Edward is the founding member of the Hodsell name in NZ and with courage, bravery and sacrifices that were made under that name, it is impossible to forget his blood flows within me.

As death sadly claims these last world war veterans, I believe it is important that not only do we commemorate those who fought, but that we also say thank you for the world we live in today. By reflecting upon the hardships of those who have gone before us, we open our eyes to how lucky we are to live in peace, in plenty, and in prosperity. Therefore I ask you today, while we remember, from the safety of the arms of our friends and whanau, our loved ones who fought, to also remember how lucky you are for the life you live. Be thankful to those who served, and thankful to those around you now. Appreciate the world millions sacrificed their lives for, so their tragic stories are worthwhile.

...At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


Wharehine

As well as the return of its traditional dawn service, Wellsford entered into the Anzac spirit in a number of ways this year.

There was a community wall of remembrance at the War Memorial Library and large poppies displayed on trucks and in the town.

Wharehine driver Wayne Curel has always displayed a large Anzac poppy on his truck and this year, the company got behind him by ordering 10 more from the RSA for its vehicles.

Fellow driver Peter Bowmar and his daughter Danique also made three large roadside poppies and Wellsford Plus supported poppy displays and collections in shops.

Pictured, the Wharehine crew, Wellsford Plus members and MP Marja Lubeck.



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