This year’s ANZAC service was more than usually solemn following Covid-19 disruptions, and with a new war in Europe raising the prospect of nuclear conflict, RSA patron Mike Lee said in his address, reprinted below.
We gather here and all across New Zealand on this ANZAC Day morning – as our parents did, and their parents before them, to keep vigil and bear witness to the fallen and to honour their great sacrifice. This is the 106th ANZAC Day, inaugurated in 1916 in New Zealand and Australia to commemorate the landing of ANZAC forces at Gallipoli on this morning in 1915.
We are now deep within the 21st century – a strange, uncertain time.
The post-2018 ANZAC Days, when we last commemorated the centenary of the Great War, bear testament to that.
In 2019, in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque massacre, ANZAC Day services in New Zealand were guarded by police officers with automatic rifles – even here at Ostend.
The following year, 2020, we remember ANZAC Day for the first time ever was cancelled because of the Covid 19 global pandemic.
And this year we gather in a time of war, not the forever brushfire conflicts we have grown used to, but a war in Eastern Europe, the birthplace of world wars, and a war directly involving a major nuclear power – and indirectly involving the other major nuclear power – a war which could, by any miscalculation very easily escalate into a World War III.
In the July days of 1914 the assassination of an Austrian archduke at Sarajevo quickly led to war between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia, and then spiralled out of control. One by one all the great powers of Europe were dragged into the conflict, which sucked in people from all over the world, not least New Zealand – even people here on Waiheke – people who had no stake whatsoever in the bitter quarrels of Europe.
Again in 1939 we remember it was a dispute between Germany and Poland over the Danzig corridor that triggered World War II.
We can only hope and pray that the war in Ukraine does not escalate to a Third World War, a nuclear war, as we hope and pray the present generation of world leaders, all of whom are fortunate not to have experienced the horror of war themselves, can make peace before events spiral out of control.
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