South salutes sacrifice of World War I soldiers

BRITTANY PICKETT
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014
Southland Embarkation Centenary
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ
IN HONOUR: Southern Institute of Technology drama graduate Ben Wilmot takes part in the Southland Embarkation Centenary at the Invercargill cenotaph yesterday.

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A hundred years ago, 140 Southlanders boarded a train to Dunedin before heading overseas for World War I.

Eight months later many of them had been killed in battle at Gallipoli.

About 300 people gathered for the Southland Embarkation Centenary at the cenotaph in Invercargill yesterday.

The event marked 100 years since Southland's first volunteer soldiers of the 8th Southland Infantry Company and the 7th Southland Mounted Rifles headed by train to Dunedin to join the remainder of the Otago Infantry Battalion or the Otago Mounted Rifles for service in World War I.

Organiser Dr Aaron Fox said they wanted to commemorate the soldiers leaving as well as remember those who died. "This is one of our last chances to celebrate a positive event. Next April will be a much darker event," he said.

Speeches of the time were recited by Southland District Mayor Gary Tong as president of the Southland League W D Hunt, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt as Mayor McFarlane, and actor Andrew Firth Porter as Sir Joseph Ward.

The speeches came from those written in the newspaper at the time of their delivery.

They were "sincere, concise and brief", Fox said.

The army brought out their active regimental Otago-Southland colours to commemorate the day, which was special, he said.

Members of the RSA laid wreaths, the 1915 Southland casualty list was read, the Last Post played and the soldiers were waved goodbye at the Invercargill train station.

The next event in the 100-year commemorations will be the Dusk to Dawn train ride on September 28, commemorating the soldiers leaving for war.

The 75th anniversary of the start of World War II is on September 3, while next year marks 50 years since the Vietnam War and 65 years since Korea.

It was important not to forget them and remember those who fought in Gallipoli, Fox said.

brittany.pickett@stl.co.nz

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