Huge troop loss a chilling reminder

By Melissa Nightingale

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SOMBRE TUNE: Those gathered stand as The Last Post is played.
SOMBRE TUNE: Those gathered stand as The Last Post is played.

Whanganui City College student Arapeta Latus drew people's minds back to the Battle of the Somme at yesterday's Anzac Day Maori Service.

He was the guest speaker for the morning service outside the War Memorial Centre and about 500 people listened as he described his own family's military history, before speaking about those lost in 1916.

He talked about July 1 that year, when 20,000 soldiers of the British Army were killed during an attack.

Allied shells were dropped on the German defences positions for seven days, after which the allied soldiers left their trenches and walked into no-man's land "shoulder to shoulder", thinking the shells had annihilated the enemy.

"It was never going to be that simple," Arapeta said.

The German soldiers were "well dug in" and waited out the shelling in concrete bunkers.

When the allied soldiers spilled out thousands were slaughtered.

He also spoke of the New Zealand division, which lost 7048 "sons of Aotearoa" between September 15 and October 4. "That's the equivalent of 881 lives for each kilometre gained."

Arapeta also talked about the Pioneer Battalion, and of Maori soldiers making an impression on the "hearts and minds" of all they encountered.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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