New Zealand Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands

ANZAC Day Commemoration in The Hague - Speech Delivered by H.E. George Troup, Ambassador of New Zealand

New Zealand Ambassador to the Netherlands, George Troup speaks at the ANAC Day commemoration in the Hague

The New Zealand and Australian Ambassadors to the Netherlands, hosted an ANZAC Day commemoration at Westduin Cemetary in the Hague.  Following is the speech delivered by H.E. George Troupe, Ambassador of New Zealand.

E nga mate, nga aitua, o koutou, araa o matou, ka tangihia e tatou i tenei wa. Haere, haere, haere.
Tatou te hunga ora, tena tatou katoa.

To the dead and to those being mourned, both yours and ours, we lament them and farewell them.
To all of us, the living, greetings.

Zeer geachte dames en heren,
Hartelijk dank dat u hier vandaag met ons aanwezig bent op deze bijzondere dag.

Commodore Bauer and Brigadier-General Ent, on behalf of the Netherlands Minister of Defence

Ambassador Bart Twaalfhoven, Chief of Protocol, and our guardian angel Director Karel Hartogh, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Lydia Morton of Australia

Diplomatic and military colleagues

Rev Tony Roake and Father Sjaak de Boer

Ladies and Gentlemen


A warm welcome to all of you, and special thanks to you for coming out early in the morning on this holiday. It is very unusual for the moon and the calendar to interact in such a way that ANZAC Day coincides with Easter. So to the priests especially, and to all of you, I wish you a joyful Eastertide.

I would like to extend grateful thanks to all who have contributed to this occasion – the clergy, the musicians, the national reserve, the representatives of the servicemen’s organisations, the staff at the cemetery. I am proud to be associated with you as I take New Zealand’s turn at hosting this important commemoration.

What does ANZAC Day mean here in The Hague in 2011, and what has it meant in other places and at other times over the past 96 years?

New Zealand’s direct involvement in the liberation of The Netherlands in 1945, and more generally in the wars fought here, was limited. Our armed force units were deployed in other theatres during World War 2, and the same is true of Australia. But there were a number of New Zealand aircrew serving in Britain’s Royal Air Force who lost their lives over the Netherlands; one is buried here in this plot of the cemetery, together with an Australian. The Embassy, and indeed the New Zealand Government and public, are deeply grateful for the devotion of friends around this country who keep alive the memory of the sacrifice of those servicemen. Some of those friends are here with us today – you are especially welcome.

Today’s commemoration takes on added meaning as we reflect that right now Dutch servicemen together with those from allied countries are in harm’s way as they carry out the mandate of the United Nations to protect civilians in Libya. Commodore Bauer and General Ent, please accept our assurance of solidarity and appreciation for the contribution your people are making on behalf of the global community.

I expect everyone here knows that the ANZAC story began on 25 April 1915, when soldiers from Australia and New Zealand along with large numbers from allied countries represented here today landed on beaches in Gallipoli, Turkey. The operation ultimately represented a military defeat for them, after months of fierce combat with heavy losses and suffering on both sides of the battle, but characterised by heroic bravery on both sides and touches of humanity. The story of Gallipoli has been well told on many occasions, and I need not dwell on it today.

The first ANZAC Day commemoration was held the following year, in 1916, and for the first few years the focus was squarely on the Gallipoli campaign and mourning our losses. By the end of the World War 1 it had been broadened to commemorate all the fallen soldiers of Australia and New Zealand in the war. The observance of ANZAC Day soon began to converge with the British commemorations that are held on what is now Remembrance Sunday in November. The best-known symbol of this convergence is the shared use of the poem For the fallen, written by the English poet Laurence Binyon in 1914 and majestically set to music by Edward Elgar in 1917. Old soldiers and servicemen’s associations are especially attached to the fourth stanza. This passage is in fact inscribed on the war memorial panel in the now-ruined Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand, where I was a choir boy. Lydia Morton will read the third and fourth stanzas of the poem later in this service.

After World War 1, every town in New Zealand and Australia, however small, had a war memorial honouring the names of sons of the town killed in the war – big numbers, sometimes larger than the populations of those towns now. Further names were added after World War 2. Over the years ANZAC Day observance has been broadened further to acknowledge and mourn sacrifice in all wars. The focus is still mostly on men who fought in uniform, but there is also recognition of the service and sacrifice of others, including women on the home front – mothers, wives, workers.

My own memories of ANZAC Day do not go back quite to World War 1, but I am old enough to have personally experienced a number of changes over the years. I attended a boys’ school in Christchurch that had lost vast numbers of former students - old boys as we called them - in both world wars; many of our school masters were veterans of World War 2 who used to become unexpectedly emotional on ANZAC Day as they wore their medals. ANZAC Day was perhaps the most important date on the school’s calendar, with a special choir (which in some years sang the Elgar setting of the Binyon poem), a special ANZAC Day verse in the School Song, the reading of the Roll of Honour of Old Boys killed in the world wars, and a ceremonial march by schoolboys in military uniform across the frosty fields to the war memorial shrine, where the same bugle calls were played that we shall hear this morning. So World War 2 had a direct immediacy, with a strong military flavour; the predominant emotion was probably a feeling of pride in those who had gone before us and made the supreme sacrifice.

A few years later, when I was a university student, New Zealand forces (and of course Australian) were engaged in Viet Nam. ANZAC Day became a divisive occasion: a focus for confrontation between anti-war protestors and the so-called “establishment” – a majority of New Zealand Ministers and Members of Parliament at the time being veterans of World War 2. There would be physical struggles on the war memorials as long-haired student protestors provocatively tried to lay wreaths honouring both sides in the Viet Nam conflict – these wreaths would promptly be thrown away by representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s Association. It would be accurate to say that the students (unfairly, as I now think) saw the occasion as glorifying war. The only reason for young people to go near an ANZAC Day ceremony in those years was to protest.

I understand that Australia passed through similar phases in attitudes to ANZAC Day, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, I believe, public attitudes in both countries towards the members of our armed services have become more reasonable and balanced. Even though a number of recent military involvements have been deeply divisive in political terms, there is a broad public consensus that it is right to honour those who follow government instructions and put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. In parallel, attendance at the annual Gallipoli commemorations seems to be becoming a rite of passage for young Australians and New Zealanders (perhaps reflecting a sense that our countries came of age in the Gallipoli campaign).

This year – in fact just a few hours ago – New Zealand’s foreign minister, Hon Murray McCully, presided at the New Zealand ceremony at Gallipoli. The Governor-General of Australia, Hon Quentin Bryce, attended a ceremony in Thailand marking the anniversary of the start of construction of the infamous Thailand – Burma railway, which cost many Australians their lives. Our Prime Minister, John Key, is participating in ceremonies in London, including at the Australian War memorial; Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia is in Korea. This pattern of involvement by our leaders is quite typical of what happens every year.

Broadening even further the theme of shared mourning, perhaps I may be permitted to mention the much-appreciated support Australia and New Zealand have received from our friends here in the wake of the natural disasters we have experienced in recent months. We are most grateful – including to you, Father de Boer, for the special service at the Church of our Saviour that you dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Christchurch earthquake. Many of the victims were visitors from overseas, and we join with their families in mourning. At the same time, we think of the indescribable catastrophe in Japan.

Along with the focus, the ANZAC Day Ceremony itself has evolved over time. Many elements have become familiar over the years. For me, the most positive change has been the role that is now played by representatives of the Turkish Embassy, with the reading we shall hear shortly of the wonderful and deeply moving words of the victorious Gallipoli commander and father of the modern Turkish nation, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This is a sign of hope, that friendship can sometimes grow out of the evil and suffering of war.

And it gives a deeper meaning to the words I read at the beginning. We mourn and honour all of those brave people who have sacrificed themselves for the common good.

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