Love letters from the battlefield

By Lani Kereopa

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Love letters from a 28th Maori Battalion serviceman to his fiancee were the inspiration for the opening song of this year's Anzac Day Civic Memorial Service.

Stella Maris will this morning perform her original song No Man's Land at the ceremony honouring New Zealand's servicemen and women at the Rotorua Convention Centre.

The 18-year-old performed the song for the first time at last year's service and said she wrote it after reading letters her grandfather, Robert Grant, had written to her grandmother, Doreen Grant, during World War II.

"It portrays how I see my grandparents may have felt during that time, struggling with the distance and not being able to see your lover for such a long time, as well as dealing with seeing all the horrific things that come with war."

Ms Maris said her grandfather and his brother, Hingawaru Grant, had both fought in the 28th Maori Battalion, and Hingawaru was one of the small party of men under Sergeant Haane Manahi who attacked and captured the Peak of Takrouna in Tunisia against overwhelming odds, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

She said her family had discovered letters written by her grandfather and others after her grandmother passed away on New Year's Day last year.

Ms Maris, who is a foundation student of the Waiariki Academy of Singing and Music, said she was given the opportunity to perform at the Anzac Day service by academy director Richard Anaru.

"I was asked the day before to perform so I wrote the song, went over it a couple of times and then sang it."

She said she had been writing songs since the age of 14 and performing for as long as she could remember.

The Anzac Day Civic Memorial Service begins at 8.50am with a parade marching from the Lakefront via Government Gardens to the Rotorua Convention Centre ready for the service at 9.30am. Today's Anzac Day Dawn Service was to start at 5.45am at Ohinemutu.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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