Tēnā Koutou Katoa

It is my honour to join with you all on this ANZAC morning.

May I begin by thanking the people of Turkey for their gracious welcome to those of us who come from the other side of the world to remember some of the most defining times in our nation’s history.

In particular can I acknowledge Bekir Sitki Dağ, the Deputy Governor of Çanakkale, and the Honourable Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia.

On this day, one hundred and two years ago, the first troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps began landing here.

On a cold, brisk morning, much like this one, brave soldiers, filled with anxiety and facing the unknown, landed here on these shores to serve King and country.

They put aside fear and the thoughts of loved ones.

With bare grit and unquestionable courage, they arrived, boots first and friends close behind. And for the next eight months, amid searing heat and bitter cold, rife disease and the carnage of war, they fought an impossible battle.

Few of those who landed on this peninsula that day had been under fire before. For many, that dawn would be their last.

Those first Anzacs came from all walks of life, from every profession and corner of New Zealand. But their courage and their love of home united them.

These were the young sons of New Zealand and Australia. Many were just boys.

As they stepped off the boats, they were filled with hope that a victory here would shorten the Great War.

They wondered how they would overcome the terrors of battle and whether they would be able to do their duty.

But they did. Some unto death.

Here amongst the horrors of Gallipoli – more than 17,000 New Zealand soldiers fought, and 2700 died. Close to 5000 were wounded.

Over 26,000 Australians suffered at our side.

The Aussies were our mates. They, too, were far from home. They stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder, under fire, doing what had to be done. From that day to now, we’re proud to call them our closest friends.

Over the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign, the soldiers who fought here showed remarkable courage and tremendous strength.

Fighting side by side, it was impossible for the Kiwis not to be filled with admiration for the splendid courage and heroism of the Australians – nor them for ours.

The bravery shown on these hills formed the Anzac Spirit and was the birth of a bond between nations.

That the mission at Gallipoli failed in no way undoes what the Anzacs accomplished here or the great bravery and devotion to duty they displayed.

In fact, it makes their suffering and achievements all the more poignant.

And so every year, on this day, we gather at the rising sun to honour those first Anzacs.

We remember their sacrifices.

We remember the overwhelming odds.

And we remember the dead – those who paid the ultimate price so we might enjoy our freedom.

We honour the nurses who tended to the wounded. Those who prayed at the bedside of the dying. Those that dug the hard dirt to bury their friends.

And we honour the families whose sons never returned home, those mothers who gave their sons to war.

But we don’t just remember the fallen.

We remember those who survived. Who fought alongside their friends and saw them fall. Who endured and suffered, and lived to fight other battles in other places. For in them the Anzac Spirit prevailed and was brought home, and it lives on in us.

We acknowledge those who continue to serve in our Defence Force today. These brave men and women follow the footsteps of the first Anzacs to dark places around the world to bring peace to where there is conflict and hope where there is none. They do our nation proud.

Today, Gallipoli is no longer a place of war, but a place where we remember the brave sons who fought and fell here.

It’s where our sense of nationhood was born and where friendships were forged.

For those men who came ashore here, few could have imagined that a century later we might gather in this place, not as adversaries but as friends.

That the very enemy they were fighting might one day host scores of New Zealanders who travelled halfway around the globe to honour their fight.

At Gallipoli, we fought a noble enemy, and in time they became our friends. We now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Turkey, remembering our fallen men and the spirit in which they fought.

We honour the Turkish people who stand vigil at the graves of our men, and we thank them.

This peninsula of war is now a place of friendship and healing. It’s proof that enemies can become the truest of friends. That we have more in common than that which divides us.

We hope it inspires those conflicts around the world where deep-rooted hatred seems impossible to overcome.

May they turn to Gallipoli and see what can become of their bitterness.

As dawn breaks, we pay tribute to the courage, sacrifice, and loss of those who have served our country.

To the Anzacs who lie asleep in these hills, we salute you.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Rest in peace, our brave sons.

You live on, in us.

Share this post