With gratitude we will work for peace

Ardern pays tributes to heroes of World War I

Jacinda Ardern

The Carillon and Wellington’s ‘roaring chorus’ recaptured (on November 11, 2018), the wave of spontaneous jubilation and hope which swept New Zealand when news of the Armistice broke.

As the Stratford Evening Post reported on November 13, 1918, “The ringing of the fire-bell, whistles blowing, the tin-can band of the boys, and other devices with which to make a noise joyfully, soon spread the great news over the countryside.”

Stark loss

A hundred years ago however, the celebrations were tempered by stark loss.

This same news item went on to say, “It almost seemed good to be sad for a moment, and then joy won, and the rest of the day was spent with the spirit of thankfulness uppermost, and with an exuberance of pleasure, tempered with remembrance.”

Reeling Nation

By November 1918 we were a nation reeling.

New Zealand’s total war losses had surpassed 16,000, a toll that was cruelly compounded by the influenza pandemic which killed about 9000 people in New Zealand over the course of two months.

Many soldiers would return to lives very different to those they had left months or years ago. Many found it difficult to settle down – not all were able to walk straight back into their old jobs, homes, relationships or social groups.

The effect of War

When Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence ‘Curly’ Blyth went back to farming in Waipukurau, he found he was only able to stay put for a few days before he had to move away.

Lawrence explained the effect that war had on him as someone who had enlisted at the age of 18: “I had a different outlook in life. You’d been through all these different things, mixed with all these different people. The change was quite dramatic.”

We remember all the lives changed by the First World War. We consider the families across New Zealand that faced an uncertain future without loved ones in a world indelibly altered by the horrors of industrial, modern warfare.

The Final Chapter

The centenary of Armistice signals the final chapter in our WW100 commemorative period.

The WW100 programme has had a huge impact across Aotearoa during these four years – connecting hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders with our past, our ancestors, our tupuna and each other.

What has shone through during this time has been the willingness of people from all walks of life – from veterans to school students – to engage and reflect on the legacy of the war and what it means to them.

Just as communities last century rallied together to support the war effort, responding to Lady Liverpool’s appeal by fundraising, sewing, and of course knitting, New Zealand united again, this time in remembrance.

So, while our formal commemorations are drawing to a close my hope is that the essence of the commemoration will endure.

I hope that we will continue to engage with our communities’ war stories and memorials.

I hope that re-discovered chapters of family history will be passed on to the next generations and that we will never forget the service and sacrifices our forebears made.

This Armistice Day, as we reflect on the human toll of war we are reminded to value the living and to hold fast to hope.

Achieving a better future

In a world where conflict remains all too prevalent, we look to how we can achieve a better future.

We think of our commitment as a nation to the ideals of peace, multilateralism and inclusion.

We will best honour our forebears by continuing to hold fast to these values as we work for the next generation and for our future.

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

We will remember them.

Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minister of New Zealand. The above was her speech at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington to mark the Armistice Day National Ceremony on November 11, 2018.

Editor’s Note: Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at 11 o’clock in the morning, the ‘Eleventh hour of the Eleventh day of the Eleventh month’ of 1918. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days. A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year. (Source: Wikipedia)

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