Red Alert

Armistice Day Address, Le Quesnoy, France

Posted by on November 16th, 2012

E nga mana, e nga reo, e ngā hau e whā, tenakoutou katoa.

They came from the uttermost ends of the earth – young men from a young country far away.

There were 100,000 New Zealanders – ten per cent of the country’s entire population and nearly half of the young men of fighting age.

By the end of the war, nearly 60,000 were casualties and over 18,000 now lie in the places where they fought and died.

It was a huge price to pay for a small country.  No town and almost no family was left untouched.

They came as soldiers of the British Empire.  Those who returned did so as New Zealanders.

They came to fight for King and Country but most often they fought and died bravely because they did not want to let their mates down.

Well over 18 million died in the Great War which supposedly was the war to end all wars.  But 21 years later Europe was again at war with itself.

The greatest achievement of the European Union has been 60 years of peace.

For the first time in three generations, my generation did not have to come to Europe to fight a war.

Memorials eulogise the glorious dead.  But we know that the manner of their deaths, cut down by shell blasts, gas and machine gun fire was anything but.

We are here to commemorate the dead and honour their sacrifice, not to glorify war.

Eighty of our dead lie here in Le Quesnoy, killed tragically in the final week of the war.  Their families celebrated the end of the war before they learned that their sons had died on its final days.  We mourn the dead but we are proud that they liberated your town from four years of occupation and helped protect it from destruction.

Today we renew the bond between us, forged by their efforts and sacrifice, which has endured over the generations.

This year, as every year, we pay tribute to the men who fought and died, who gave up their lives for New Zealand, to liberate France and Le Quesnoy.

In New Zealand our veterans recite the Ode:

They shall not grow old as we who 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.

Nous les souvenirons!


2 Responses to “Armistice Day Address, Le Quesnoy, France”

  1. bbfloyd says:

    Good speech Phil…. While I read through it, the fact that those eighty deaths were utterly unnecesary was in my mind…

    We need to remember just what those sacrifices mean to those living now, and how they gave us the “identity” we, until recently, have been so proud of….

  2. Jack Ramaka says:

    I had a grandfather who fought at Passchendale where we lost 80-90% of our troops in half an hour as the wire had not been cut and we were being bombed by our own shells.

    The German machine guns cut us to ribbons.

    Another grandfather was one of the few that got off Chunuk Bair alive although severly wounded so I guess we need to be grateful we are actually here on this earth.