The impact of war, and especially the First World War, on New Zealand as a nation, has been great. It has fashioned our nationhood and is embedded in our history and culture. Sacrifice has always been a central theme to ANZAC services around the country as we recall those who served in the many theatres of war over the last century. With reverence, we acknowledge the debt we owe to the many who fought, were wounded, disabled and, for a very significant number, failed to return to the shores of our country.
Every year since 1916, dawn services have been held on 25 April as a mark of respect for the fallen soldiers of World War 1 in particular. Marking the time of the initial landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, dawn holds the symbolism of darkness making way for the light of a new day. These services do not serve to glorify war but to honour the memory of those who, in time of war, faithfully served their country, many sadly paying the ultimate price.
‘Every day the dawn breaks, the light of a new day shines and the darkness is overcome. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the World.’ We pray for his light to reach even the darkest corners of our world – where wars still rage. As we honour the past, we pray that God will continue to protect and defend the freedom we enjoy in this land.’ Reverend Reuben Hardie
In this, the centenary year since the landing at Gallipoli, the combined Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, along with the Preschool, planned a special dawn service for their families to be held on the field at the Boys’ School on the Friday prior to Anzac Day. It was a fitting tribute that more than 1500 members of our community arose early to mark their respects.
The newly formed Boys’ School Pipe Band played prior to principal piper, David Allen, piping the official party to the field. Representative students and staff from each of the Schools and the Preschool, along with Chairman of the Trust Board, Dr Bruce Goodfellow, took their places under flood lights on the bank seating as the sun began to rise.
Principal, Mr Peter Cassie opened the service saying that World War 1, and the events at Gallipoli in particular, have moulded us as a nation. Excitement initially reigned as troop ships left our shores in 1914, heading for Europe to join the battle. As the war spread, NZ and Australian troops were diverted to Egypt for training, in preparation for a landing on Gallipoli that would hopefully open up supply lines to Russia, England’s ally, thus bringing the war to a quick end.
It was in Egypt that Australian and NZ soldiers trained together and formed a bond that to this day remains - the ANZAC acronym was born!
In the early hours of Sunday morning April 25 the ANZACS leapt from their boats into shallow water ready to race across the beach for cover. They were not prepared for the terrain or the onslaught of firepower that greeted them. Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the ANZAC actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy.
Mr Cassie also drew attention to the significance of the poppy and the amazing display of ceramic poppies around the School that were created by our boys.
Head Boy, Michael Hiddleston, took the reading from Romans Chapter 5, Verses 1-5 before Head Girl, Morailisa Aneru stepped forward to deliver the Gallipoli poem, ‘The Last to Leave’ by Leon Gellert. Both students spoke with poise and eloquence in front of such a huge congregation.
In a moving moment, Selena Agaimalo joined with Moiralisa to sing the first verse of ‘Abide with me’ before the community joined in. The girls had beautiful voices that carried across the field as the first light filtered through the sky.
For us today, it is hard to imagine what it may have been like to land on the shores of Gallipoli one hundred years ago. Year 7 student, Isaac Melys-Glynn delivered a chilling speech about how life would have been in the trenches in that far distant land as bullets rained down.
Four wreaths were laid - one by Mrs Sue Nash, Director of the Preschool along with preschoolers Olivia Lidstone and Boston Chester; one by Dr Sandra Hastie, Head of Primary with Head Girl Moralisa Anueru; one by Mr Peter Cassie and Head Boy, Michael Hiddleston and the fourth was laid by Dr Bruce Goodfellow on behalf of the wider Saint Kentigern Community, both past and present.
Year 3 Student Arden Matheson was called on to deliver Binyon’s well known poem, ‘For the Fallen.’
‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. We will remember them.’
The service concluded with the Last Post played by Zac Lerner followed by silence as we remembered the fallen.