Lieutenant Jaiselmer Keivom-Lockhart from the Royal New Zealand Signal Corps spoke at the Paekākāriki Anzac day commemoration in 2021. Paekākāriki.nz publishes this to commemorate Anzac Day 2022 (with this year’s service cancelled due to Covid-19).
For a substantial portion of time since the first Anzac Day, New Zealand has been involved in wars, conflicts and other military operations around the world.
We gather today to honour and remember all those who have served and are serving our nation, and in particular those who paid the ultimate price and were never to return home to live their lives in full.
While Anzac Day is focused around the forging of the Australia and Kiwi fighting spirit at Gallipoli in 1914, we should also remember the other places where New Zealanders served with great courage and determination.
Seventy years ago New Zealand soldiers were with their Australian, Canadian, and American comrades engaged in the Battle of Kapyong in South Korea. Before the Battle, the New Zealanders and Australians had been looking forward to a joint Anzac Day parade that would also have involved Turkish troops. Instead, they were in the thick of battle writing a new and gallant chapter in the Anzac saga.
At about midnight on the 23 April 1951, Chinese forces began a series of fierce assaults on positions held by the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. Desperate fighting ensued over the next two days. New Zealand’s 16th Field Regiment provided vital fire support to the hard-pressed Australians. Without this fire there is no doubt the Australian infantry would not have been able to hold off attacks by the much stronger Chinese forces. As on so many battlefields before and since, at Kapyong, Australians and New Zealanders proved once again that in extremis they could always rely on each other.
There can be no doubt that our nation’s role in the Korean war, and in other wars and conflicts, has had a tremendous impact on New Zealand history and society. Above all the terrible losses suffered by our country at Gallipoli and on so many other battlefields brought grief and loss to homes across New Zealand.
Here in Paekākāriki, that loss and grief was experienced in the deaths of local people in those conflicts, but also through the deaths of the U.S. Marines who were stationed and trained here during World War II. They became a part of our community and all these years later, on Anzac Day we remember them with our own.
Military service and war have had many other more subtle impacts on our country. A few weeks ago it was the 75th anniversary of the arrival in Japan of Jayforce, the New Zealand contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.
The men and women of Jayforce carried out their occupation duties in a humane and professional manner. More importantly, however, the contacts they developed with the people of Japan helped lay the foundations for the multifaceted and warm relations that now link our two nations.
One remarkable element of this process was that a few years after that terrible global conflict, some New Zealand soldiers and Japanese women were able to put aside the prejudices and enmity of war, fall in love, and marry.
In more recent years the Defence Force has been involved in a wide range of operations overseas in places as diverse as Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan.
Over the last year, at any one time around 1200 our military personnel have been playing a key part in New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Work in Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities has put a great strain on the personnel involved and on their families.
What all these operations have demonstrated is the importance of the unique range of skills and capabilities that the Defence Force brings to the service of New Zealand.
We have also shown that today’s New Zealand military personnel, like those who have gone before them, are dedicated to upholding New Zealand’s national interests and the principles we hold dear.
Today, on Anzac Day, we also acknowledge that this modern service, just as it was in the past, is never without costs to my colleagues, the men and women in the armed forces and to their families.
But it is not just the service of members of the Armed Forces we recognise on Anzac Day, especially in communities like Paekākāriki. This past year, of all years, has shown us the true spirit of family and community, and has shown us more than ever before what service to our nation means and that it comes in many forms.
Our local community leaders, our emergency services, our medical staff, the teachers and youth leaders, our neighbours, our friends and the supermarket shelf stackers – you have embodied the Anzac spirit through your service and your courage, determination, care and compassion.
Today is a very special day, one we share with Australia. The Anzac story touches us. It is a story for the ages, one of sacrifice and bravery, of commitment and giving, which resonates deep within us all.
So, as we stand here together, let us honour the men and women of the past who have contributed so much to us, to our freedom and security and let us also honour the men and women who continue with courage and fortitude in this proud tradition.
Let us never forget them.
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