How we should remember them

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RESPECT: A member of the Kaikohe ATC stands guard at Kaikohe's dawn service. PICTURE/DEBBIE BEADLE
RESPECT: A member of the Kaikohe ATC stands guard at Kaikohe's dawn service. PICTURE/DEBBIE BEADLE

"In remembering the suffering and losses of war, let us commit ourselves to working for a world where differences between nations can be resolved without resort to war.

"That is the way that we can best honour the men and women who have served, who have fought and who have died."

So Northland MP Winston Peters told Kerikeri's dawn Anzac service, perhaps more in hope than expectation.

"New Zealand, like many other nations, is remembering the so-called war to end all wars, World War I," Mr Peters said.

"In August 2014 we remembered the start of World War I, last year we commemorated the tragic Anzac campaign at Gallipoli, which some historians credit as being a time that helped define us as a nation. And today, in many parts of the world wherever New Zealanders and Australians are, they will stop to share this day in commemoration and tribute to enormous sacrifice.

"Later this year we will recall the Battle of the Somme, in which our troops served and in which so many died.

New Zealand troops entered the battle in mid-September 1916, and by the end of it more than 2000 were dead and nearly 6000 wounded.

"Barely two decades later the Second World War brought more sorrow. Again, thousands of our service personnel gave their lives and were left to lie in lonely graves distant from their homes and loved ones."

Few of those who came home from World War II were left now, but still the impact of that conflict was felt.

Mr Peters also acknowledged the contribution service veterans had made in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor, with RAMSI and in many other theatres. New Zealand was currently home to 31,000 veterans, of whom 11,000 served after World War II up to the Vietnam War; 20,000 served after Vietnam.

"In remembering those who have served our country abroad we should also remember their families, and do our best to understand the frustrations of those who serve in the military and the agony of their loved ones," he added.

"We should do all we can to comprehend the ordeal and tribulation of military personnel, and, dare it be said, ensure that governments and bureaucrats share that understanding. It is the duty of all of us to remind whoever is in power of their responsibilities to these personnel."

Mr Peters illustrated that view by quoting a letter written 204 years before, which demonstrated how disconnected some in power could become from the people they have sent to war or placed in harm's way.

"The Duke of Wellington was a much-decorated general who defeated Napoleon twice, and who, to many in the era, defined the British character. Nevertheless, he still had to answer a flurry of petty questions generated by bureaucrats in London," he said.

"The following is a letter he wrote to the National Office in 1812 in response to some trifling expenses for which he was being held accountable."

'Gentlemen,

'Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by HM ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

'We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

'Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

'This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both: to train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London, or perchance to see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

'Your most obedient Servant

'Wellington.'

- Northland Age

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