New Zealand High Commission Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

H.E. David Pine - Anzac Day Address

Anzac Day address at Cheras Cemetery by H.E. David Pine, New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam - 25 April 2013.

Your Excellency Miles Kupa, High Commissioner of Australia

Your Excellency Simon Featherstone, the British High Commissioner

Your Excellency, Serap Ataay, Ambassador of Turkey

Major General Dato Stephenson

Colonel Murat Yaygin, Defence Attache of Turkey, whom we thank for joining us to share the unforgettably generous words of his country's great leader Kamal Ataturk; words that have become so much a part of our tradition.

Serving Officers, Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys. 

Thank you for turning out early this morning to participate in the Australia and New Zealand ANZAC Day commemoration service. 

"We will remember them".  It is a powerful little phrase, those four words that we say together each year on this day.

Our memories on Anzac Day are both shared and private.  We may read the same books, or watch the same movies, yet each of us draws on such a different set of experiences to frame our understanding.  For many people, warfare strikes in the deepest and most unimaginable ways; while others might go through their entire lives without direct experience of it at all.  The forces of history can seem quite random in the way they are applied to individual lives.

So what is it, then, that we expect a new generation - such as the students who have just sung so beautifully for us - to understand and, eventually, to remember about the sacrifices, about the heroism and about the suffering of the servicemen and women whom we commemorate today?

When I started attending ANZAC Day services as a kid, about 45 years ago, there was always a parade.  It was led proudly by the generation of my  grandfathers: the men who had served in the First World War - including on the Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey where, on this day 98 years ago, Australian and New Zealand troops struggled ashore at what is now called ANZAC Cove.

In some parts of New Zealand, though not mine, there were even veterans of the Second Anglo-Boer War, the first overseas conflict to involve New Zealand troops.

Though the passing of the years had only enhanced the reputations of these veterans, age had indeed wearied them.  Each year their number dwindled and those who remained were that much frailer.  To my child's eye it was almost as if they were being tipped forward as they marched by the weight of the medals that they wore.  As they became fewer in number they became that much more precious to us.

Next in our parades were the veterans of the Second World War who had served in Greece, Crete, North Africa, Italy and the Pacific.  These were much more sprightly men - almost exclusively they were men; my uncles' generation, then very much in the prime of their lives.  As a boy I was always excited by the appearance of this group.  I felt like I knew their stories because my uncles had told them to me - though later I was to learn that they had spared me from the full horrors of their experiences.

The 1970s were in some ways an uncomfortable time politically.  New Zealand's involvement in the Vietnam War was questioned by a wider range of people and more deeply than our participation in any previous conflict had been.  Anti-war sentiment could sometimes slide into - or at least be perceived as  - anti-military sentiment.

At that time, though for very different reasons, many veterans from the conflicts in Malaya and Vietnam did not participate in New Zealand's ANZAC Day commemorations.  This sad fact caused pain to many and much has been done subsequently to make amends.

So, in the 1970s, the next, and the last, group of veterans in the parade would be those who had served in Korea - Kay Force and sailors from the six Loch Class Frigates that had participated in the United Nations Forces and the subsequent garrison on the Korean Peninsula between 1950 and 1957.  Compared to those who had gone before they always seemed barely old enough to be soldiers, let alone veterans.  

Then, in what seemed like no time at all, the veterans of the First World War were all gone.  The Second World War veterans had suddenly become older and frailer.  And then the parades themselves became less of a feature of ANZAC Day as the focus shifted more and more to the Dawn Service.

So, to return to the question I asked at the start of this address, what is it about warfare that we would expect a new generation to understand?      

To start with the obvious: that warfare is a dreadful thing to be avoided as far as is humanly possible.  In both Australia and New Zealand war has caused untold suffering and loss, devastating families across generations.

In the First World War, the New Zealand Division suffered more than 58 000 casualties among the 100 000 troops which we sent to the war.  The mind gets numbed by numbers but pause and think about that.  58 000 casualties from 100 000 troops.   And this from a population that numbered just 1.2 million at that time.  Proportionately, Australia's casualties were of a similar order.  In the centre of almost every small town and city in both of our countries there are memorials to the fallen of the First World War.  Few families in either country were left undamaged.

It was a similar story in the Second World War in Europe and, later, the Pacific.  In proportion to their population sizes New Zealand and Australia suffered a higher ratio of casualties in the Second World War than our major allies.

On occasions such as today it is natural and right to focus on the experiences of the service personnel themselves.  But all of them had family and loved ones at home with anxieties, sorrows and challenges of their own.

When our Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae spoke in New Zealand a few hours ago he drew attention to the role that the mothers and wives of our soldiers had played during the two world wars; not just the hundreds who had gone overseas as nurses and voluntary aides but all those who had stepped into new and unfamiliar roles to keep our farms and factories going.

All of this we need to remember.

We also need a new generation to understand that, though as peace-loving nations we strive to avoid conflict, it is not always possible to do so.  The sacrifices and the contributions of our service personnel continue in our own time. 

Since 1945, the world may have been spared from the horrors of global warfare but both New Zealand and Australia have needed to contribute not only in Korea and Vietnam but to a large number of United Nations' Peace-keeping operations.  In some of these, Cambodia, the Solomon Islands, Bosnia, Timor Leste and Lebanon they have served alongside Malaysian peace-keepers.

And both Australia and New Zealand have had Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan where New Zealand has worked closely with Malaysia.

It is often said that it was out of our shared experience in Gallipoli that New Zealanders and Australians first began to see themselves as distinct nationalities.  ANZAC is both an integral part of our respective national identities and a strong bond between us.  This morning our Governor General quoted a New Zealand ANZAC veteran whose words captured the feeling of camaraderie that grew between the two services our two countries almost a century ago.

"We liked the Aussies.  They were the ones that we trusted.  We looked out to the Aussies.  Aussies and New Zealanders always stuck together if they could."

In that spirit, I look forward to welcoming all the Australians and Kiwis here to join us after this service for a traditional gunfire breakfast at 15 Jalan Langgak Golf

And we will be delighted to have all the representatives of the Malaysian Government, the Governments of Turkey and the United Kingdom, other diplomatic missions and of the schools, and indeed everyone else here to join us.

There, as we do every year, we will remember them.

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