On Saturday, like many thousands of New Zealanders and Australians, I attended an ANZAC day memorial service. I went with my family to Cranmer Square in Christchurch for the Anzac Dawn Service. As we walked to the Square, there were hundreds of people also making their way to commemorate 100 years since the first landing of NZ troops at Gallipoli. ANZAC day continues to be an important and symbolic day in the history of our country. Every small town you drive through has a war memorial to the fallen. Young men who were prepared to go to war, "for King and Country" and for the 18,000 NZ soldiers who died in foreign lands, killed in action during WW1.
I have always taught WWI poetry at this time of the year to my classes, hoping to use ANZAC day as a way to given some authentic context to what we were learning. One year we even sent "Tweets from the Trenches" as young soldiers from the Papanui area. (See future blog post about this)
A phone call on Saturday from a cousin informed me that recent family research had revealed an unknown great uncle had died at Gallipoli.
Within a week of arriving with the Otago Infantry Battalion, 14th (South Otago) Company, he was killed, missing in action. For me, ANZAC day has become just that more personal.
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.