Whakatane pays tribute to fallen soldiers

By Katee Shanks

Poppies are laid during the Whakatane Civic Service. Photo/Katee Shanks
Poppies are laid during the Whakatane Civic Service. Photo/Katee Shanks

In a moving tribute to a grandfather and great, great grandfather, Whakatane High School head students Brooke Bridges and Netana Barsdell delivered an emotive speech at the town's Civic Service today.

Speaking about her grandfather, Miss Bridges said she had recently discovered the death notices of his friends tucked away in his old war satchel.

She said the men had fought and, in some instances died, beside her grandfather who was a tank driver at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

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The flag is raised at Wairaka Marae in Whakatane. Photo/Katee Shanks
The flag is raised at Wairaka Marae in Whakatane. Photo/Katee Shanks

"We are also here to pay tribute to the 15 brave men, all former students of Whakatane High School, who gave their lives for their country."

Mr Barsdell spoke about his great, great grandfather and said while he was at the Civic Service to honour the servicemen and women who fought, it was also to acknowledge the incredible hardship they suffered during the war years.

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said the Civic Service marked 100 years of Anzac Day ceremonies.

"Not only are they being held across the country and in Australia, they are also more than likely being acknowledged in overseas countries where people befriended New Zealand soldiers in those horrible years," Mr Bonne said.

"At the first Anzac Day service the grief was still raw for loved ones who had lost, and for those who had survived and returned home. Over the past 100 years the grief has lessened and the memories faded but we still remember."

When our men returned home from War, there was no Social Welfare, nor anyone lining up to make sure they were okay.
John McCorkindale

Master of Ceremonies John McCorkindale became emotional delivering his speech on the history of the Returned Services Association.

"When our men returned home from War, there was no Social Welfare, nor anyone lining up to make sure they were okay," Mr McCorkindale said. "They went away and killed and died for their country but were not helped when they came home.

"So these men looked within themselves and to each other to get through."

He said many Tuhoe soldiers went bush into Te Urewera for weeks on end when things got too bad.

"The soldiers, the sailors and the pilots - not many spoke about what they had seen and had to endure. So if you were fortunate enough to hear some stories, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

"Everywhere I go and every speech I make I tell people honouring our past is important as it provides the pathway to our future. And I say to you young people - you are our future. Never forget what your ancestors died for, you carry that on always."

Today's Civic Service was held at the Whakatane Memorial Hall while the Dawn Ceremony was marked at Wairaka Marae. Other services were also held throughout the Eastern bay.

Returned Servicemen and women march into the Whakatane Memorial Hall. Photo/Katee Shanks
Returned Servicemen and women march into the Whakatane Memorial Hall. Photo/Katee Shanks


The last post rings out over Wairaka Marae in Whakatane. Photo/Katee Shanks
The last post rings out over Wairaka Marae in Whakatane. Photo/Katee Shanks


Big screens were installed at Wairaka Marae for the Dawn Service. Photo/Katee Shanks
Big screens were installed at Wairaka Marae for the Dawn Service. Photo/Katee Shanks


Crowds gather beside the Whakatane River for the Dawn Service. Photo/Katee Shanks
Crowds gather beside the Whakatane River for the Dawn Service. Photo/Katee Shanks

- Whakatane News

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