A nation born

22:53, Apr 25 2013
We will remember

It is a day that has etched itself in the national consciousness: Anzac Day.

It increasingly marks New Zealand's self-awareness as a nation with a unique identity and culture – a notion born, first, in the trenches at Gallipoli and later on the battlefields of Europe in World War 1.

We recognise Anzac Day as a central marker of our nationhood.

A national public holiday on both sides of the Tasman it is commemorated on April 25 every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during that conflict.

The total population of New Zealand in 1914 was just over 1 million.

In all, 120,000 New Zealanders enlisted, of whom 103,000 or 10 per cent of the Kiwi population served overseas.

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A total of 18,500 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, and almost 50,000 more were wounded.

Of the total number who died, more than 2700 perished at Gallipoli and 12,500 died on the Western Front.

With the coming of World War 2, there was increased interest and a heightened sense of the relevance of Anzac Day, which became a day on which to commemorate lives lost in that war.

World War 2 is the greatest conflict to engulf the world.

It took the lives of 50 million people, including one in every 150 New Zealanders, and shaped the world that we have lived in ever since.

New Zealand was involved for all but three of the 2179 days of the war a commitment on a par only with Britain and Australia.

The nature of World War 2 not only gave impetus to New Zealanders' developing sense of identity but also greatly increased their confidence in their role in the world.

Service in later conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam reinforced this notion. In the 1960s the Vietnam War polarised opinion and meant Anzac Day was a platform for anti-war and other social protest.

The meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those killed in all the military operations in which the both New Zealand and Australia have been involved. The number of New Zealanders attending Anzac Day events is increasing as Kiwis become increasingly keen to assert and celebrate a unique identity.

We recognise Anzac Day as a central marker of our nationhood that now also promotes a sense of unity, perhaps more effectively than any other day on the New Zealand calendar.jared.morgan@stl.co.nz

The Southland Times