A shared story of service and sacrifice

By Stephen Clarke

In the middle of night a veteran polishes his shoes, pins on his medals and a poppy to join fellow comrades for the parade to the Dawn Service. Across town a student has sacrificed a sleep-in to attend her first Anzac Day. Separated by decades in years and memories they are now close in emotions as the dawn light reveals many others around the ubiquitous war memorial that marks the landscape - a site of memory for the 30,000 New Zealanders who have died in campaigns from South Africa in 1899 to Timor Leste in 2000.

On the other side of the world, New Zealanders are enduring a cold all-night vigil at that sacred place where the Anzacs landed at a small cove at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. The men who landed that day, and those who endured the following eight months of our first significant campaign of World War I, gave their name to this place, to a tradition and to a special day. Their deeds provided a source of pride while the dead brought much sorrow as evidenced on Anzac Day.

Since 1916, Anzac Day has changed over time, the result of further wars, dates and deaths, even protests, but it has now been popularly resurrected by the people. It is a day of personal memories, family reunions centred on veteran relatives, and community gatherings. Their experiences collectively provide a shared New Zealand story of service, sacrifices and a search for identity.

At the end of his 'one day of the year' the veteran returns home having remembered mates and times long ago; the student feels enriched for having participated in this unique public ritual. And those at Gallipoli will forever remember their Anzac Day at the place it all began - they indeed are living testimony to the epitaph on the New Zealand Memorial on the heights of Chunuk Bair: "From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth".

New Zealanders remembering and New Zealanders remembered. This is Anzac Day.

Symbol of remembrance
The red poppy of Flanders Field has become a national icon half a world away.

The poppy was a symbol of resurrection and remembrance after the Napoleonic Wars, where poppies were the first plants to grow above soldiers' graves.

New Zealand's first poppy day, in April 1922, sold more than 260,000 poppies made from French silk, beginning an annual tradition by the RSA to raise funds to assist returned servicemen and women and their families.

In 1945, 750,000 New Zealand-made poppies were sold nationwide - one in every two New Zealanders wore the red flower on their left lapel.

Thirty years ago, the design of the distinctive poppy changed from a closed flower to the open petal design worn today.

Today, 500,000 poppies are made each year in Christchurch and around $1million is collected nationwide on Poppy Day, held on the Friday before Anzac Day.

This year's Poppy Day is April 18.


Online link: The Auckland War Memorial Museum has a Book of Remembrance on its website for people to post messages on to remember those who served and died in war.

- NZ Herald

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