Speech at dawn service, ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli

  • Sandra Lee
Local Government

Hon Sandra Lee, leader of the ANZAC Day official NZ delegation at Gallipoli

Nga mate haere, haere, haere
Tatou te hunga ora tena tatou, tena tatou, tena tatou katoa.

To the dead, farewell, farewell, farewell
To us, the living, greetings, greetings, greetings to us all

There is a time and a place that are forever part of what it means to be a New Zealander.
The place is ANZAC Cove, here on the Gallipoli peninsula. The time is Sunday 25 April 1915.
The young New Zealand soldiers who landed here 87 years ago came ashore late in the morning, into a scene of carnage.
The Australians who had landed at dawn had already taken heavy casualties.
There was confusion everywhere, men separated from their units, officers separated from their men.

A Canterbury soldier saw what he described as "upturned boats, gear of all description, and dead men littering the beach....the noise…one continuous roar of rifle and shellfire mingled with the cries of the wounded and the dying."
The ambitious military plans had failed.
In small groups the New Zealanders pressed on, through the scrub and the gullies, up the steep cliffs above us, to support the Australians who were already engaged in fierce combat on the Sari Bair heights.

Most of the 600 New Zealand casualties on 25 April came in the bitter fighting for the hill known as Baby 700. It was, to quote one observer: "…a soldier's battle.
"The ground made it difficult for commanders to control their men.
"It was impossible to see anything ahead without standing, and to stand was to fall victim to Turkish sniper or shrapnel fire.
"All the New Zealand commanders forward on Baby 700 that day were killed or wounded."

In the end, this forward position was lost, and the ANZACs were driven into a defensive perimeter.
This is where the ANZAC tradition began, on that first day of the Gallipoli ordeal.
It came down to the way ordinary New Zealanders and Australians stood by their mates in the face of danger.
Throughout the long day, and throughout the bloody campaign that lay ahead, Australians and New Zealanders fought side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Much has changed in 87 years. The enthusiasm with which young New Zealanders went off into the so-called adventure of war is thankfully a thing of the past.
We have learned from Gallipoli, and many times since then, that war is a cruel and heartbreaking experience. Of the 8,566 New Zealanders who fought in the Gallipoli campaign, 2,515 were killed in action, while another 206 died of disease and other causes, and 4,752 were wounded.
Almost every family in New Zealand was affected by this tragedy.

Today, the spirit of ANZAC is not of war but of peace.
We are gathered here on a site that has been set aside by the Turkish government as a Peace Park, a perpetual monument to the way former enemies have since become firm friends.
It was Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the heroic leader of the Turkish defences at Gallipoli, and later the first President of the Turkish Republic, who best expressed this ideal, in words of compassion and reconciliation that speak to us across the years.
Today we remember the bravery of all the soldiers who fought here: from New Zealand and Australia, from other parts of what was then the British Empire, and from France; as we also remember the Turkish soldiers who bravely defended their homeland.
As Ataturk so movingly said, there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets who now lie here together.

Out of so many individual experiences, let me just read the words of a soldier in the Auckland Infantry Battalion, a schoolteacher in civilian life, who in later years summed up the tragedy of this futile campaign:
"Yes, I still think of Gallipoli.
"You may well ask if any war is worth it.
"You may well ask those lines of white crosses under which are buried the finest young fellows New Zealand could produce: Was it worth it?
"Was it worth your lives? No; No, it was not."

We stand in deepest respect here at Gallipoli, at the dawning of a new day. But it is not just another day. A few hours ago the same dawn broke in New Zealand,
and people all over our country also stood, in silence, at services of remembrance, wearing their commemorative red poppies.
They stood, as we stand, to remember the loss of so many lives, at Gallipoli, and in all the wars and conflicts that have followed. I am honoured to wear a commemorative red poppy given to me by the Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association, to help mark this solemn occasion.
We will not forget those who have laid down their lives.
It is our legacy and our responsibility, as today's New Zealanders, today's Australians, today's Turks, today's citizens of the world, to ensure that the sacrifice of all those who have gone before us was not in vain.

No reira, tena tatou, tena tatou, tena tatou katoa.