Commemorating New Zealanders in the First World War ~ 2014 – 2018
‘ their name liveth for evermore … lest we forget ‘
National Days of Remembrance – New Zealand & Australia
Anzac Day – 25th April
New Zealand’s national day of commemorating the 1915 Gallipoli landings at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, is known as “Anzac Day” – the 25th of April. The first public recognition of the landings at Gallipoli occurred on 30 April 1915, after news of the dramatic event had reached New Zealand.
New Zealanders soon demanded some form of remembrance on the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. This became both a means of rallying support for the war effort and a public expression of grief – for no bodies were brought home. On 5 April 1916 a half-day holiday for 25 April was gazetted for government offices, flags were to be flown, and patriotic meetings and church services would be held.
The New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ (later Services’) Association, in co-operation with local authorities, took a key role in the ceremony, organising processions of servicemen, church services and public meetings. The ceremony on 25 April was gradually standardised during and after the war. It became more explicitly a remembrance of the war dead and less a patriotic event once the war was over.
The Anzac Day ceremony is rich in tradition and ritual. It is, essentially, a military funeral with all the solemnity and symbolism such an event entails: uniformed service personnel standing motionless around a memorial, with heads bowed and weapons reversed; a bier of wreaths laid by the mourners; the chaplain reading the words from the military burial service; the firing of three volleys; and the playing of the Last Post, followed by a prayer, hymn, and benediction.
Remembrance (formerly Armistice) Day – 11th November
At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month (11.11.11) in 1918, the Armistice was signed thus formally ending the First World War. Armistice Day as it was known, was observed in New Zealand between the World Wars, although it was always secondary to Anzac Day. As in other countries, New Zealand’s ‘Armistice Day’ was changed to ‘Remembrance Day’ after World War II but this was not a success. By the mid-1950s the day was virtually ignored, even by churches and veterans’ organisations.
Since the ‘Unknown Warrior’ being returned to New Zealand for Armistice Day 2004, many more ceremonies are being held throughout New Zealand on what has now come to be known officially as ‘Remembrance Day’ which aside from commemorating the sacrifices off WW1 has now become a day of remembrance for those who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations. The observance of Remembrance Day is usually marked by gatherings and services held at war memorials, churches and RSAs around the country. Wreaths and poppies are laid at cenotaphs and war memorials honouring our fallen. Many churches nationwide also acknowledge this time of remembrance by conducting commemorative services on what is known as ‘Remembrance Sunday’ (the Sunday closest to 11 November).
Remembrance ceremonies are timed to coincide with the 11.11.11 timings. At this hour the Ode of Remembrance is recited and a bugle sounds the ‘Last Post’; a two minute period of silence is then observed, and a second bugle call sounds the ‘Rouse’ (incorrectly called ‘Reveille’). Flags are then re-raised; those on flagpoles are raised back to the mast-head, and those on hand-held staffs that have been dipped during the ‘Last Post’ are bought back to an upright position.
Commemorating the Battles of the First World War (28 July 2014 – 11 November 2018)
During this four year period, numerous commemorations will take place in New Zealand and around the world to remember and honour those service men and women who participated, fought, were killed or died, and those who returned from the First World War. The most significant commemoration for New Zealand and Australia began with the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 (28 July 1914) and the Anzac Landings at Gallipoli (25 April 1915).
New Zealand’s first action of WW1 was at the request of the British Government. Germany had established a wireless station in Apia, German Samoa, and New Zealand was asked to capture the country. 80 Germans and a gun boat were no match for the 1,374 men of the NZEF Samoan Advance Force who captured the country (unopposed) on 29 August 1914.
The Main Body of the NZEF departed New Zealand for the England and the European theater of war on 16 October 1914. As we now know, these troops were diverted to Egypt when Turkey entered the war … the Gallipoli Peninsula becoming the revised objective.
Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
The New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is located at the National War Memorial in Buckle Street, Wellington. The remains of the Warrior, one of the 18,166 New Zealand casualties of World War 1, were exhumed on 10 October 2004 from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in France, near where the New Zealand Division fought in 1916.
On 6 November 2004 the remains, in a copper coffin sealed and placed in a rimu coffin brought from New Zealand, were handed over from the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to a New Zealand delegation during a ceremony at Longueval, Somme, France. The Warrior arrived in New Zealand on 10 November 2004. While he lay in state in the Parliament Buildings an estimated 10,000 people paid their respects. The Warrior was laid to rest on the 86th Armistice Day, 11 November 2004, after a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington and a 2.85 km slow march procession through the streets of Wellington, lined by about 100,000 people. The Tomb was sealed with a bronze mantel at 3:59 pm, bearing the words:
“ An Unknown New Zealand Warrior
He Toa Matangaro No Aotearoa ”
The Warrior is one of more than 1500 New Zealanders killed on the Somme battlefields in France. Most of them, 1272, remained unidentified and are buried in unmarked graves or remembered on memorial walls. The remains are thought to include an almost complete skeleton, and other belongings that established beyond doubt the Warrior’s nationality.
Medals & Awards
The Warrior was awarded:
- 1914-15 Star for service between August 1914 and December 1915
- British War Medal for service during World War I up to 1920
- Victory Medal
- 1939-1945 Star for service during WW2
- New Zealand Operational Service Medal
The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association also awarded its Badge in Gold, the first time it has been awarded posthumously. Each RNZRSA District President placed soil and other items into the Tomb to acknowledge the service personnel from their districts who had given their lives to the nation, including soil from the farm of Capt. (Rtd) Charles Hazlett Upham, VC and Bar. Soil from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery was provided by the Ambassador from France.
Source: RNZRSA website
RED Poppy – for Remembrance
Poppies have an enduring association with Anzac Day, dating back to the 1920s. Throughout New Zealand, people of all ages wear a red poppy as a mark of remembrance for the men and women who have died in the course of service for their country. Poppies made of light cloth or paper are also woven together to form wreathes and are laid at war memorials up and down the country.
The connection between the red poppy (also known as the ‘Remembrance‘ or ‘Flanders’ Poppy) and the ‘fallen’ – service personnel killed or died as a result of war service, has its origins in the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century; red (Flanders) poppies were the first flowers to bloom over the graves of soldiers in bombed and pulverized landscapes of northern France and Belgium during the First World War. They are a vivid reminder of the sacrifice – the blood that has been shed – during war.
It was in the same region (known as the ‘Western Front’) a century later that red poppies were once more associated with those who died in war when Canadian medical officer Lt Col John McCrae penned the first two famous and moving lines of his poem:
‘ In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row …’
Lt-Col John McCrae MD, CFA
It was a poem by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer who served with the Canadian Field Artillery, which began the process by which the Flanders’ Poppy became immortalized worldwide as the symbol of remembrance.
The inspiration for the poem had been the burial of a fellow officer during the Second Battle of Ypres in early May 1915. McCrae’s verses, which had been scribbled in pencil on a page torn from his dispatch book, were sent anonymously by a fellow officer to the English magazine, Punch, which published them under the title In Flanders Fields on 8 December 1915. Subsequently, the poem was published around the world to much acclaim and is one of the most memorable and moving poems of the Great War.
Three years later, McCrae himself died of pneumonia at Wimereux near Boulogne, France, on 28 January 1918. On his deathbed, McCrae reportedly lay down the challenge:
“Tell them this, if ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.”
Among the many people moved by McCrae’s poem a YMCA canteen worker in New York, Miss Moina Michael (1869-1944), who, two days before the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, wrote a reply entitled ‘We Shall Keep the Faith’ –
We Shall Keep the Faith
Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet-to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With all who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy red
We wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Miss Michael also originated the idea of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
Origins of the Memorial Poppy
The idea for the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy, Moina Michael recalled in her 1941 book, ‘The Miracle Flower’, came to her while working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ Headquarters on a Saturday morning, 9 November 1918. The Twenty-Fifth Conference of the Overseas YMCA War Secretaries was in progress. During a lull in proceedings Moina glanced through a copy of the November Ladies Home Journal and came across McCrae’s poem re-titled “We Shall Not Sleep”. The last few lines transfixed her:To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
Moina Michael hereafter made a personal pledge to ‘keep the faith’ and vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a symbol of Remembrance. Compelled to make a note of this pledge she hastily scribbled her response, entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith”, on the back of a used envelope.
When the Conference delegates gave Moina a gift of ten dollars in appreciation of her assistance, she went to a New York department store and purchased 25 artificial red poppies and, pinning one on her own collar, distributed the remainder to the YMCA secretaries with an explanation of her motivation. She viewed this act as the first group distribution of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.
Moina Michael hereafter tirelessly campaigned to get the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance. In September 1920 the American Legion adopted the Poppy as such at its annual Convention. Attending that Convention was a French woman who was about to promote the poppy — as a symbol of remembrance — throughout the world.
International Symbol of Remembrance
Madame E. Guérin, conceived the idea of widows manufacturing artificial poppies in the devastated areas of Northern France which then could be sold by veterans’ organisations worldwide for their own veterans and dependents as well as the benefit of destitute French children. Throughout 1920-21, Guérin and her representatives approached veteran organisations’ in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and urged them to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
French Poppy Lady’s Representative Visits The NZRSA
One of Guérin’s representatives, Colonel Alfred S. Moffatt, came to put the case to the Dominion Executive Sub-Committee of the New Zealand Returned Solders’ Association in September 1921 and an order for some 350,000 small and 16,000 large silk poppies was duly placed with Madame Guérin’s French Children’s League.
It was as a result of the efforts of Michael and Guérin — both of whom became known endearingly as the “Poppy Lady” — that the poppy became an international symbol of remembrance.
‘Poppy Day’ – Unique to New Zealand
The Poppy as a commemorative symbol was universally adopted by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for annual observance of the end of World War 1 – Armistice Day, the 11th of November. The day prior to Armistice Day was designated ‘Poppy Day’ – as it was known from the outset – the day when poppies were distributed for a small donation to aid veterans rehabilitation and support for widows and their families.
The reason New Zealand’s Poppy Day is proximate to Anzac Day and not Armistice Day is one of those quirks of history: the ship carrying the paper poppies from France for Armistice Day 1921 arrived in New Zealand too late for the scheme to be properly publicised, so an NZRSA branch distributed the poppies the day prior to the next national commemoration date which happened to be the 25th April, Anzac Day. That decision established an historic precedence whereby Poppy Day became forever associated with Anzac Day in New Zealand, thus setting it apart from the rest of the world where it is largely associated with Armistice Day.
‘Poppy Day’ in New Zealand is now observed on the Friday, one week prior to Anzac Day. It is the day on which the NZRSA conducts its only national fundraising day activity for welfare support of veterans, their widows/widowers and families. The Poppy is obtained by making a donation to street collectors and is worn by men and women on the left lapel, or an equivalent position when wearing a jacket, coat or other.
Poppies are normally worn only on Poppy Day in the military, however for civilians, the practice of wearing the poppy continuously from Poppy Day through to and including Anzac Day, is growing in popularity and to be encouraged. Go to Wearing Medals for more details on ‘How to Wear a Poppy’ and other occasions when it is appropriate to wear one.
Source: Dr. Stephen Clarke, RNZRSA HistorianReferences:
Dianne Graves, A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae (London: Spellmount, 1997)
Moina Michael, The Miracle Flower: The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy (Philadelphia: Dorrance & Co., 1941) Adrian Gregory The Silence of Memory: Armistice Day 1919-1946 (Oxford: Berg, 1994) Peter Sekuless and Jacqueline Rees Lest We Forget: The History of the Returned Services League 1916-1986 (Sydney: Rigby, 1986) W. Tudor Pole The Silent Road: In the Light of Personal Experience (London: Neville Spearman, 1960
PURPLE Poppy – for Animals in War
The purple poppy was created in 2006 by Animal Aid in Britain to remember the animal victims of war such as the horses, mules, elephants, dogs, pigeons, mascots and soldiers pets. All donations go to the charity Animal Aid, who say of their appeal: “During human conflicts, animals have been used as messengers, for detection, scouting and rescue, as beasts of burden and on the front line. Please wear a purple poppy and help us to raise awareness of these forgotten victims.”
Australia has now established a similar organisation to Animal Aid called the Australian War Animals Memorials Organisation (AWAMO) but as yet New Zealand has no official ‘animals in war’ charity or organisation to sponsor the manufacture and sale of purple poppies. Wearing home-made purple poppies to acknowledge the animals victims of war by people attending Anzac and Remembrance Day parades, services and associated events is gaining in popularity in new Zealand.
The purple poppy can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war.
WHITE Poppy – for Peace
The white poppy, like the red poppy, is worn to remember those who died. It is worn by those wish to acknowledge their abhorrence of war while emphasizing a lasting commitment to peace. It was first introduced by Britains’ Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and is now sold by the Peace Pledge Union, or may be home made. Their motto is “War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.”
Wearing a white poppy in New Zealand is a relatively recent trend particularly among organisations and individuals who seek to express their pacifist ideals and opposition to all forms of warfare.
There is no particular protocol for wearing this poppy.
Ode of Remembrance
The Ode of Remembrance is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, which was first published in the “Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War” in 1914. It also appeared in the The Times in September of the same year.
‘For The Fallen’ plaque with The Rumps promontory beyond
The poet wrote For the Fallen, which has seven stanzas, while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps in north Cornwall, UK. A stone plaque was erected at the spot in 2001 to commemorate the fact. The plaque bears the inscription:
FOR THE FALLEN
Composed on these cliffs, 1914
There is also a plaque on the beehive monument on the East Cliff above Portreath in central North Cornwall which cites that as the place where Binyon composed the poem. A plaque on a statue dedicated to the fallen in Valleta, Malta is also inscribed with these words.
The poem honoured the WW1 British war dead of that time, and in particular the British Expeditionary Force, which by then already had high casualty rates on the developing Western Front. The poem was published when the Battle of the Marne was foremost in people’s minds.
Over time, the third and fourth stanzas of the poem (although often just the fourth), were claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of state.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that 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.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
The final line of the Ode, ‘We will remember them’ is usually repeated in response by those listening. The phrase ‘lest we forget ‘ is often added by the person reciting the Ode as a final line after the Ode response.
The Ode of Remembrance became the Australian Returned Services League Ode, and had recited at memorial services held on days commemorating World War I, such as Anzac and Remembrance Days. In New Zealand’s numerous RSA’s, it is read out nightly at 6 p.m. The Ode is also part of the Dawn Service at 6 a.m. After the Ode of Remembrance has been recited, it is often followed by the playing of the ‘Last Post’, observance of a Minute of Silence, followed by the ‘Rouse’ (mistakenly called ‘Reveille’, a different and longer piece of music).
Act of Remembrance – NZRSA
In RSAs across New Zealand, a simple and solemn ceremony, the ‘Remembrance Ceremony’ is enacted each night at 6 p.m. to acknowledge The Fallen and to reinforce our commitment to never forget them or their sacrifices.
The ceremony starts with the lights being dimmed, sometimes a small memorial will be illuminated, and the Ode of Remembrance is recited. After the last line of the Ode, all present respond with – ‘we will remember them’. Some may also follow this response with –‘lest we forget‘ – after which the lighting is restored and activity resumes.
NZ Ensign – Flown at Half Mast
Half-mast is the common international English term used to describe the practice of flying a flag below the summit (masthead) of the flagpole (mast/staff/pole). In many countries this is seen as a symbol of respect, mourning or distress.
The tradition of flying the flag at half-mast began in the 17th century. According to some sources, the flag is lowered to make room for an “invisible flag of death” flying above.
Times of Respect & Mourning
The New Zealand Ensign is usually flown at the masthead (or the peak of a flagpole gaff) during daylight hours, or for the duration of a ceremony, e.g. a commemorative occasion. The Ensign is half-masted to show respect on days of national remembrance such as Anzac and Remembrance Days, and whenever an occasion of mourning is to be observed. A half-masted NZ Ensign is a mark of respect for a deceased returned serviceman (usually flown by the veteran’s parent RSA). It may also be seen at a veteran’s funeral (on a mast and/or the coffin) during the funeral service and the cremation/burial ceremonies.
The method of half-masting a flag is to raise it to the masthead, then slowly lower it to the half-mast position, which will depend on the size of the flag and the length of the flagpole.
The flag must be lowered to a position more than its own depth from the top of the flagpole to avoid the appearance of a flag which has accidentally slipped from the masthead. When the New Zealand Ensign is flown at half-mast, other flags should not be flown above it. At the end of the day (or a ceremony) the flag should be raised again to the masthead before lowering it for the day.
Other Symbols of Remembrance“It was magical when flowers appeared on the upper reaches – not that we saw much of the upper reaches. But when we did, we were reminded of home when spring clothed the hills with flowers. The dead lying among them seemed to be asleep.”
Source: Extract from ‘Gallipoli Peninsula’ by Alastair Te Ariki Campbell.
100th Anniversary of the Anzac Landings, 25 April 2015
The Gallipoli Rose
The official symbol for the Anzac Day 2015, 100th Anniversary commemorations in Turkey, was the Gallipoli Rose backed by a sprig of rosemary.
The Gallipoli Rose, or cistus salviifolius, is one of the Spring wildflowers that carpets the slopes and hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula, from April to May. It is believed that soldiers at Gallipoli during the First World War were so taken with its beauty that some took seeds home and planted them as a symbol of peace and remembrance.
Wild rosemary, also found on the Peninsula, is an ancient symbol of remembrance and is often intertwined with leaves and flowers in wreaths of remembrance and pinned to lapels on Anzac and Armistice Days.
In 1915, a wounded Australian soldier was repatriated to an army hospital in Adelaide. He brought with him a small rosemary bush he had dug from Gallipoli and planted it in the hospital grounds. Later, cuttings were taken to grow into a hedge, and plants from that hedge are thriving today at the Waite Arboretum at the University of Adelaide.
As New Zealand poet Alastair Te Ariki Campbell writes in his poem Gallipoli Peninsula, the wildflowers provided comfort to the soldiers, half a world away from home:“It was good to feel, during such moments, that we were human beings once more, delighting in little things, in just being human.” Sources: Wikipedia Extract from ‘Gallipoli Peninsula’ by Alastair Te Ariki Campbell. Reference: “Ode of Remembrance”. Fifth Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment Official Website. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
The Dolores Cross Project (DCP)
The DCP is the initiative of Dolores Ho, the Archivist at the National Army Museum. The aim is to pay a person tribute to each of the nearly 30,000 New Zealand military personnel buried on foreign soil. The Dolores Cross is a simple, hand-made, woven Harakeke (New Zealand flax) cross. Harakeke was chosen because it grows plentifully in New Zealand and it seemed appropriate that a part of New Zealand made up this unique tribute. It creates an intimate link between the homeland and those New Zealanders who went on active service to the Boer War, both World Wars, to Korea, Malaya and Vietnam and never returned.
The DCP relies upon volunteers (essentially anyone travelling overseas for business or pleasure who are able to assist) to pay a personal tribute to each fallen man or woman by placing a Dolores Cross on war graves they are able to visit. For more information:
Visit the Dolores Cross Project or follow it on Twitter & Facebook
Source: Kindly authorised by Dolores Ho, Archivist, National Army Museum, Waiouru