Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Soldiers commemorate Armistice Day

David Keys, president of the Timaru RSA. Photo / APNZ
David Keys, president of the Timaru RSA. Photo / APNZ

Old soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with serving troops this morning to commemorate Armistice Day on the 95th anniversary of the end of World War I.

New Zealand paused for two minutes' silence at 11am in memory of the 18,000 Kiwis who died in the 1914-18, the "war to end all wars".

Wreath-laying ceremonies were held at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at war memorials across the country.

Troops gathering in Timaru for New Zealand's biggest ever international military exercise took time out to pay their respects at the WWI commemorative area at Caroline Bay.

Commander of the coalition forces on exercise, Colonel John Howard said Armistice Day was a "very special event for those of us in uniform".

He said it is a day to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty, but also those who are still serving and those who will follow.

"Today is a very important and poignant moment," Colonel Howard said in front of a large crowd, including local school children, members of the emergency services, the New Zealand Defence Force, and representatives of the countries involved in the training exercise - Australia, Canada, France, Malaysia, the US, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tonga and the UK.

David Keys, president of the Timaru RSA, today remembers his mates who died alongside him while fighting in the Korean War (June 25, 1950 - July, 27 1953).

He signed up to the Army as a 17-year-old after making a hash of rounding up straggling sheep on the North Canterbury property of Second World War hero and double Victoria Cross winner, Captain Charles Upham.

"He [Upham] said to me, 'I think it's time you had a spell in the Army'," Mr Keys, 82, said today.

"So I did, and spent 25 years in the Army. Upham and I became good friends."

He arrived in Korea in 1953 as a 21-year-old corporal as part of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.

Of the 21 men in his infantry regiment, 20 came home.

Today, he remembered the fallen.

"It affected all of us, because we were all brothers, irrespective of rank," said Mr Keys.

"Days like Armistice Day are so important to ensuring they are not forgotten.

"Each Anzac Day, there's more of the younger generation, and many who are wearing their grandfather's, or great-grandfather's medals. It's very important."

After retiring as a senior warrant officer in 1973, the military tradition in his family was carried on by his two sons - Lynn and Greg, who both served in the New Zealand SAS.

He became Timaru RSA club president in September of this year, and says his ambition is to arrest the decline club membership numbers.

"The RSA plays an important role in the community and I want that to continue."

- APNZ

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