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Bugle dawn chorus across Wairarapa

A wreath was laid in Martinborough on Saturday as private remembrance was observed across the region. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

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At dawn on Saturday morning, bugles sounded out in Wairarapa towns to commemorate those Anzac members “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations”.

For the first time in Anzac Day history, all gatherings were cancelled outright, due to the covid-19 pandemic.

In response to this bizarre set of circumstances that have befallen the country, where fellow citizens cannot be physically close to one another in remembrance, the Returned and Services Association promoted a personal, private ceremony which they’ve called Stand at Dawn.

This was where, instead of gathering, people were encouraged to commemorate the fallen at home, in their respective bubbles, by standing somewhere on their property and observing the silence.


Peter Jackson, president of the Featherston RSA and an ex-army officer, said “the organisation was very much focused on the Stand at Dawn approach: people commemorating in their own bubbles.

“There was no collective commemoration or assembled gathering, but people did commemorate in their own way, in their own space.

“I think a lot of people found it quite moving, and something completely different. From what I’ve seen there has been a lot of effort put in by many people to provide some sort of Anzac theme, either in their houses or on their driveways.

“The RSA very much promoted the Stand at Dawn commemoration, but really it was very much up to individuals to do what they thought was right on the day.

“We provided some guidance as to what people could do: homemade wreaths and various other bits and pieces.”

Minister of Defence and Carterton resident Ron Mark addressed the nation, speaking on a live stream Saturday morning.

He dedicated a significant portion of his speech to the covid-19 pandemic, and the Spanish flu pandemic almost 100 years before, which cruelly claimed the lives of returning soldiers.

“Today, our small band of Second World War warriors, our veterans, are amongst those most affected and threatened by covid-19,” Mark said.

“At this difficult time, we must do all we can to support our elderly veterans and to protect those most at risk.

“The comprehensive measures New Zealand took to combat the threat posed by covid-19 have turned all our lives upside down.

“However, we only need to look back at the terrible influenza pandemic of 1918 to see what could have happened, if we had not acted so swiftly and so decisively.

“The 1918 pandemic coincided with the armistice that ended the First World War.

“And near my home here in Carterton, the Featherston military training camp was especially hard hit.

“The first cases were recorded in the camp late in October 1918, and by Armistice Day, nearly 2500 men had gone down sick.

“Within a few short weeks, the pandemic had claimed 172 lives within that camp.

“In all, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed around 9000 New Zealanders – losses which came on top of the grievous casualties that we, as a nation, had suffered through that First World War.”

Nifo Tauiliili, president of Featherston Netball Club and the treasurer of Featherston Rugby Club, said she heard the Last Post on the Bugle ring out from her residence on Fitzherbert Street.

“It was quite neat listening to it from here, with us being where we are,” Tauiliili said. “I have been for nearly 50 years in this town, and this is the first year the memorial has been under lockdown, so it’s pretty strange.

“But we still did it, in remembrance of the Anzac parade, and the meaning of it. It was really good, to preserve the memory of them, and to pay tribute.

“Featherston has got an amazing community spirit. When I was young, I grew up with that spirit of community and it hasn’t changed.

“The older people that I grew up with, my parents and that, they’ve all gone.

“Coming through life, and watching everyone grow older, it’s actually amazing that, even with the new people that have moved into town, it’s still got a great community spirit.”

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