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Public ‘owns’ Anzac Day

 

Bob Hill, Wairarapa RSA president in front of the field of crosses placed for Anzac Day in Masterton Town Square. PHOTO/GERALD FORD

By Gerald Ford

Anzac Day commemorations are all about community ownership and passing on the message to the next generation, according Wairarapa RSA president Bob Hill.

Speaking in front of the more than 300 crosses in the Masterton Town Square, Mr Hill addressed the importance of passing on the remembrance of Anzac Day to the next generation.

“Our philosophy is we’ve got to concentrate on our youth… we have to. I believe (that) and the RSA does too.”

Wairarapa had plenty of ways of including younger people in its commemorations, with a reading by Makoura College student Lily Wright at the ceremony in front of Masterton cenotaph, which began at 5.55am.

Makoura College also participated in Anzac Day through its Services Academy.

The group is the only Wairarapa branch of a Government initiative to create a pathway, through discipline, to a career on the Armed Services or police.

The academy, which partnered with the RSA in this year’s commemorations. was set to participate in a march past the square on the way from the cenotaph to the RSA building.

“We march past here and we always do an ‘eyes right’,” Mr Hill said – indicating the respect shown to the emblems of fallen soldiers.

Several of the crosses that were placed in Masterton town square – as well as other public spaces in other Wairarapa towns – have been decorated by family members with old photos, poppies and flowers.

“People come out and they take ownership – the families,” Mr Hill said, indicating one such freshly decorated cross.

“You see they’ve come along here and taken ownership. The men’s shed have made these, so they’ve got some ownership here as well.”

The events of Gallipoli, in which thousands of New Zealanders were killed, live on in commemorations around the world, including Wairarapa.

“What we’re commemorating is World War One. We lost something like 18,300 in that first war. What’s going to happen in November next year, is they are going to have 18,300 crosses placed out in the Auckland Domain for every person who lost their life in the war.

“It will be exactly the same as this and they will all be named, every single one. (We’ve got a cross here for the horses too.)”

Every Anzac Day Mr Hill also remembers, in particular, the New Zealand soldiers of World War I who still lie in unmarked graves.

“There are 1200 still out there in the field, many of whom were never found,” he said.

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