ANZAC Speech to Tauranga Boys College

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Boys, 30 years ago I sat where you it, and if I can take one lesson it’s that you won’t remember what I say.

I remember five assemblies. Maadi Cup, Moascar Cup, Volleyball Champions, 2nd in the NZ band competition and first assembly for your former principal Graham Young.

I remembered only things that were relevant to me and my interests. So how can I make ANZAC relevant?

It started as a huge adventure. Like getting a Facebook message and email from the NZ Government saying you can go and play rugby in Europe for NZ, all divisions and grades, you just need to run round Nicolson field twice to prove your fitness, we will provide the uniform and the trip over there.

It will largely be sport, the opposition are weak, you are strong, you will be back by Christmas.

Imagine the excitement, as the opportunity ripples around Facebook and texts fly. It would be ‘spot the one who won’t go’, you’d probably mock him. It’s a free trip, huge excitement reinforcing the commitment of everyone to go.

Then there’s the farewell, the parades, the pride of family and whanau, go get him mate

Then you are over there, practising with a few hit outs keen to crack on with it, get out on the field and nail this thing.

When do you think the fear would start?

At the briefing – when you are told of the plan to capture the peninsula?

Being transported into the rickety rowboats in the dark?

Hearing the first explosions, the first bullet rip past your head?

When do you think the fear in your pit of your stomach would have turned to horror, to bile in your throat and terror?

When you saw the first guy get hit? Or the smoke, the confusion, the noise, oh the noise, then the adrenalin, then the silence bar the pounding of your heart in your head.

Then the realisation, ‘O my God what have I done?’, then the hiding, the endless digging, then the waiting knowing you have to go back over the top and face it, death.

Days, Weeks, Months, Years

Some of you get home, but man you are different, deeply scarred, who are these people you left behind.

Then Anzac Day arrives, it’s celebrated, apparently we won. But the pain of remembering. I lost my best friend from college, 22 years ago this July, I remember each year, it still hurts.

But you lost half your team, so you can’t speak of it.

20 years later you wave good bye to your only son as heads back to Europe.

Can you do one thing for me?

Sometime, in your own time, over the next few days, go to Nicolson Field, go to your trees, put your living hand on the living symbol of their sacrifice, Take time to pause and reflect

Boys its OK in life to pause, to reflect, to allow your own thoughts to distil without needing to justify to anybody.

All gave some, some gave all, lest we forget.