Reminders of war's pain at Armistice service

The loss of New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan is an ongoing reminder that there is nothing glorious about war, retired Colonel Bob Upton told a Remembrance Sunday service in Nelson.

A 100-strong gathering at Anzac Park in drizzle yesterday commemorated the 94th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended hostilities on the western front in World War 1.

Mr Upton said the Armistice brought an end to the fighting but the consequences of the war and the events it set in train continued today.

It was the costliest conflict in history up to that time - 13 million people died, nine million of them combatants and 20 million more were wounded.

A total of 18,500 New Zealanders died in the war, when its population was just over one million.

"New Zealand's First World War dead fell for a cause that some people today criticise as futile, as having little to do with New Zealand.

"The men of 1 NZEF knew otherwise. They knew that if the struggle was lost, then New Zealand would be a very different place. They knew that future Kiwis would not be able to rejoice that their country was free and its destiny theirs to determine. They knew that tyranny successful somewhere eroded freedom everywhere. Volunteers all, they fought and died to prevent that happening."

World War 1 was supposed to have ended all wars. "The 94 years since the Armistice bear eloquent and sad testimony to how illusory that hope was.

"Those years have seen war after war, conflict after conflict, and thousands more New Zealand war dead. But, in every instance, those New Zealanders involved held to the same twin ideals of mates and country as those who went before them."

He paid tribute to the five soldiers killed in Afghanistan in August "in the continuing fight against international terrorism" and said the road to victory would be a long one.

"We should remember today those service personnel currently serving on that road and the perils they face.

"Their loss is an ongoing reminder that there is nothing glorious about war."

However, it was necessary to fight against the tyrannies that threatened liberty, he said. "That cause transcends the ages, and it is a noble one."

Nelson Returned and Services Association president Barry Pont said it was the best turnout it had for Remembrance Day for years, partly because it was on a Sunday when more people were able to attend.

They included the Nelson Cadet Units and Nelson City Brass Band.

The Nelson Mail