Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Teen and veteran stand side-by-side for Anzac services

This year's dawn service in Napier will see 17-year-old schoolgirl Abby May speak about the importance of remembering the Anzacs who gave their lives in Gallipoli. Photo / Supplied
This year's dawn service in Napier will see 17-year-old schoolgirl Abby May speak about the importance of remembering the Anzacs who gave their lives in Gallipoli. Photo / Supplied

A teenager who has delivered an award-winning Anzac speech to more than 20 events nationwide will stand side-by-side with an elderly veteran to be the faces of an Anzac memorial service this morning.

This year's dawn service in Napier will see 17-year-old schoolgirl Abby May speak about the importance of remembering the Anzacs who gave their lives in Gallipoli. She will share the stage with 94-year-old World War II veteran Guy Natusch, who is also a notable Hawkes Bay architect.

Abby and Mr Natusch will be among thousands of people across the country turning out to Anzac memorial events, marking 100 years since the first remembrance day events.

The Woodford House school student will address the crowd gathered at the Sound Shell on the Art Deco city's waterfront, saying a prayer for those who lost their lives.

She will follow this with a reading of her award-winning speech, entitled The Ultimate Sacrifice, at Hastings Hospital.

The powerful speech was inspired by her great-grandfather and great-uncle, and won Abby the ANZ RSA Cyril Bassett VC Speech Competition last year, sending her to Gallipoli to attend the centenary commemorations.

She has since spoken at more than 20 events nationwide, delivering her speech which looks at the landings through the eyes of an 18-year-old soldier, who is hesitant to shoot down his Turkish counterpart because of the similarities he sees between himself and the enemy.

"In reality, the Turks where just pawns in the larger Ottoman Empire game. Likewise New Zealanders were just pawns in the British Empire's game," Abby said.

"Both were fighting for their country's identity and the future of their people. They call it 'the gentleman's war' for a reason.

"The men that fought on that increasingly harsh landscape did not do so out of malice.

"There is evidence that their camaraderie went so far as to throw food and tobacco to one another from their respective trenches.

"The mutual respect that exists between our people today is very unique, and is cherished by both parties."

The teenager said the most significant part of sharing her story was that it "gives a breath of fresh air to what we know as World War I".

"For people to hear the story from a young person who has grown as a result of experiencing Gallipoli first hand gives people reassurance the longevity of the Anzac message is in safe hands with my generation."

She will sit alongside Mr Natusch, who served in the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy from 1942 to 1945 in the North Sea and English Channel for D-Day operations on destroyers and torpedo boats.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in May 1944 for good service against enemy light forces.

Napier RSA President John Purcell said it was extremely important to have young people involved in the Anzac Day services.

"We love having the students speak because, even if there is never another war, they will be the guardians of remembrance."

- NZ Herald

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