Topic: Anzac day speech 2009 by Warren Banks

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In the calm of this dawn, we have gathered here to remember.

In this quiet and sombre place, I ask you to try for a moment, to imagine that early morning and dawn of the first ANZAC Day - 25 April 1915.

Those young men were not so very different looking from many of those gathered here, or from our children or grandchildren, from our brothers, cousins or uncles - ordinary and exceptional New Zealanders and Australians every last man.

Stony-faced and silent, apprehensive, a little excited too probably, they slipped first into motor boats, then row boats, into the darkness of a very distant and foreign ocean.

Then the skies lit-up and roared with the thunder of big guns; bullets began to whiz and spew out of the blackness with daunting rapidity.

An enduring memory of mine since visiting Gallipoli, was the bullets that have collided in mid air and wrapped around each other such was the density of the fire. There is a leap into the shocking cold water - into the unknown - limbs fighting the thick resistance of the last few heavy yards to the beach as bullets drop all around.

They are now scrambling across a narrow beach beneath the sharp, steep hilly ramparts held by an enemy they have never seen, and who they know virtually nothing about, except for maybe the odd mentions in childhood fictions.

Around them mates, some they have known most of their lives, others for only the last few weeks, are hit and fall killed or wounded.

There is noise and confusion everywhere.

But on they go.

The British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett provided the first reports of the landing at Anzac Cove by the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. He wrote:

"They waited neither for orders nor for the boats to reach the beach, but, springing out into the sea, they waded ashore, and, forming some sort of rough line, rushed straight on the flashes of the enemy's rifles.

He went on:

"There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and the storming of the heights... [The Australians and New Zealanders] were happy because they had been tried for the first time and not found wanting."

That is the legend of ANZAC, forged in a cauldron of fire over eight short months on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915; and sustained since by the combined efforts of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, sailors, and air men and women during the Second World War, in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam and more recently in Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

But what is this special ANZAC relationship, and how strong is it today?

At is core is a 'mateship'; a recognition that no matter how much we might want to beat each other on the rugby field or netball court, that at the end of the day we share more in common than we do in difference.

Our histories are similar: both young fresh colonial nations that have carved out their own identities through determination and toil.

But more importantly it is our attitudes that resonate.

We are irreverent, our senses of humour always challenging the status quo and conformity.

We believe that respect is earned through ones deeds, not inherited as a birthright. We are undoubtedly egalitarian.

We are inventive and innovative - our back yard inventors and number 8 fencing-wire mentalities is the signal that we believe problems are not barriers, just obstacles to be overcome and solved.

And certainly from a military standpoint, in each other we see courage, endurance and initiative.

Standing shoulder to shoulder we can have complete confidence in each others ability -which frees us to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

So what place has this ANZAC spirit in 2009 and where to from here?

Of course New Zealand's closest strategic partnership is with Australia. We are as proud today to be the 'NZ' in ANZAC, as were our soldiers at Gallipoli, and at Passchendaele and the Somme.

We have a tradition of mutual commitment to each other's security, and of working together in pursuit of shared strategic interests.

We work closely with Australia promoting a secure and stable Pacific. We will continue to work and operate closely with the Australian Defence Force to be able to respond to any contingency in our part of the world.

Last year at a special ceremony on Anzac Bridge in Sydney, a statue of a New Zealand soldier, to match the existing statue of an Australian soldier, was unveiled.

These two soldiers, frozen for all time in bronze, were a fitting reminder to all of the sacrifice of ANZAC servicemen and women, and the special bond between our two countries - not only is Australia our closest strategic partner, they are our closest mates!

So today, as we remember the sacrifice of our Service personnel over the years, I ask all those gathered here to also dwell for a moment on the horrific loss Australia has suffered this year through bush fires.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those Australian and New Zealand families that have suffered such devastating loss and hardship.

Our Defence Force was proud to be able to send a group of fire fighters, and others, as part of a wider New Zealand contingent to lend what assistance we could. New Zealanders rallied.

You see, this is what mates do. This is also what ANZAC means.

For all of us who have turned out this dawn morning; and at services the length and breath of New Zealand; and those too standing with us at the foot of cenotaphs and monuments in the big cities and small towns of Australia...

I conclude with the simple refrain that holds as much meaning today as it did at the very first ANZAC Day services:

We will remember them. Thank you

Warren Banks

 

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