“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
Words from “The Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, read out by Reverend Jennifer Petersen at the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Cenotaph on Tuesday.
This year’s ANZAC Day marked the 102nd anniversary of the first major military action fought by New Zealand and Australian forces during the First World War. This important day remembers not only those who died at Gallipoli, but all who have served their country in times of war. Here in London, ANZAC Day is commemorated with a dawn ceremony at the New Zealand war memorial, attended by thousands, and a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph followed by a service at Westminster Abbey.
I was fortunate enough to attend the wreath laying ceremony and service as a representative of the network. The sight of veterans, young and old, proudly marching in to pay their respects is a humbling experience. The first wreaths laid were by the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, the High Commissioner for New Zealand along with his Australian counterpart, the Hon Alexander Downer.
From there, we moved across to Westminster Abbey for a service of commemoration and thanksgiving. As the Dean of Westminster Abbey reminded us in his address, the Gallipoli campaign took a heavy toll on both sides; there were 141,000 Allied casualties, of whom more than 44,000 died. Of the dead, 2,701 were New Zealanders and 8,709 were Australians. The Turkish forces lost 86,000 and in total suffered over 250,000 casualties. Such mind-numbing numbers!
What I found particularly moving was the involvement of Turkish diplomatic officials in the service, with the Ambassador reading a piece written by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The lines “You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace” brought tears to my eyes.
Attendance at these events is free, however you do have to register online at the New Zealand High Commission to go into the ballot for tickets. I would highly recommend taking part in these annual events to remember those who have fought for our freedom. Lest we forget.