Barry (BJ) Clark is the National President of the New Zealand Returned and Services Association. Video messages from the All Blacks can be viewed at allblacks.com and at rsa.org.nz.

Today is November 11 and on this day 98 years ago, the guns fell silent on the Western Front for the last time marking the armistice that ended the global catastrophe that was the World War I.

That armistice - which famously took effect at the "eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" is now a day and a moment of remembrance all around the world.

Due to a quirk of history, it is a day that has not received the same attention here in New Zealand where we typically focus our honouring of our service men and women around Anzac Day.

Later today, wreath-laying ceremonies mark Armistice Day at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at some other local war memorials throughout New Zealand. As part of these ceremonies, a two-minute silence is observed at 11am in memory of those New Zealanders who died while serving their country.

Advertisement

This year, the RSA has joined forces with the All Blacks to invite all New Zealanders to take a moment later this morning to pause and reflect on all those Kiwis who served in that war and every operation since; including those serving in our armed forces today.
You might wonder what role the All Blacks have in remembering the service and sacrifice of our military.

Just as in the wider society, the ranks of rugby players and the All Blacks of their day were decimated on the front lines in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East in World War I. Thirteen All Blacks were killed in action during that war, including the captain of the 1905-1906 "Originals," Dave Gallaher.

And another seven All Blacks never came home from World War II.
To honour their fallen and all those New Zealanders who never came home, the All Blacks traditionally wear a poppy on their sleeve in one of the test matches on their northern hemisphere tour each year.

This calls to mind the blood that was spilled and the sacrifice of all those who have gone abroad in service of New Zealand. As All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said, the All Blacks squad will rarely swap any of the jerseys that feature the poppy, such is their meaning within the team.

This year, the All Blacks will don the poppy in the test against Italy in Rome on Sunday morning (NZT). This is especially poignant given the important role that Kiwis played in the Italian campaign and, in particular, at Monte Cassino, only a short distance from Rome.

All Black Jack Hardy was killed at Cassino on May 19, 1944 while fellow All Black George Hart lost his life at Sora on June 3, 1944 and is buried at Cassino. They were among 2100 New Zealanders killed in operations in Italy from 1943 to 1945.

The All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby have kindly lent their support to our efforts to highlight Armistice Day as another time when we can honour the sacrifice of generations past and present.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and captain Kieran Read are calling all Kiwis to join them and people all around the world to pause and mark Armistice Day.

Jointly, we are asking all Kiwis who can to take a moment and think of all those who have served New Zealand.

At the RSA we are keen to ensure New Zealanders understand this is not just a historical milestone. Today, we have 41,000 veterans still with us and 30,000 of those have served in operations that have taken place since the Vietnam War. Their service occurred in places as far flung as Bosnia and Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

As is tradition around Anzac Day, Kiwis can wear a poppy in remembrance. You can also inquire with your local RSA to find out about any Armistice Day activities which are being organised locally.

The honouring of Armistice Day is especially poignant at this time as we remember the centenary of World War I and all the sacrifices made then and since by our services personnel, their families and communities.