Losses old and new marked

20:08, Apr 25 2011
Anzac Day Dawn Service
DAWN VIGIL: Timaru Air Training Corps cadet William Johnson stands guard during the Timaru Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Cenotaph and War Memorial on Queen St, yesterday.

Rain could not deter hundreds of people in South Canterbury from turning out to Anzac Day services across the district.

The South Island's recent tragedies – the earthquakes and the Pike River mining disaster – were remembered at Timaru's main Anzac Day service yesterday.

Drizzle held off when about 400 people attended the 6 o'clock dawn service at the cenotaph in Queen St.

However, a steady light rain was falling by the time a similar-sized crowd assembled for the 10am service at the South Canterbury Returned and Service Association hall.

Guest speaker and former Temuka man Commander Wilson Trumper acknowledged the sacrifice of New Zealand men and women in past and current conflicts, and the recent disasters that have struck at both New Zealand and Australia.

"New Zealanders have faced pain with the Canterbury earthquakes and the disaster at Pike River, both in the South Island. The Defence Force was deployed to assist both areas in our own country."


Commander Trumper, who was on board the HMNZ Canterbury in Lyttelton during the February 22 Christchurch earthquake, said "anyone who says you won't feel an earthquake on a ship in a harbour has not experienced one".

The Defence Force had lost several personnel in the past year in tragic circumstances, while Australia had lost 23 men in Afghanistan since 2001, he said.

"At home they have recently suffered through flooding in Queensland, Cyclone Yasi and deadly bushfires in Perth. It is at times like these that we pause to offer our shared support.

"In times of trouble at home we continue to support each other. This support is what being an Anzac means."

Geraldine RSA president Ian Blackmore said more than 400 people attended the 9am service at the Geraldine cinema. The Rev Bob Moore, who has served as a paratrooper for South African forces, and Lyle Wichman, who has just returned from serving New Zealand in Afghanistan, spoke. About 100 people also attended the Anzac Day service at Peel Forest.

"Some years we have had as many as 700 attend the Geraldine service, but considering the weather, we were very pleased with this year's turnout," Mr Blackmore said.

The dawn service in Temuka had a "brilliant" turnout, according to local RSA president David Geddes, who said it was better than normal, despite the weather. However numbers at the main service at 11am were down, which he attributed to it also being the Easter weekend.

A 9am service at Winchester Rural School had attracted a "healthy turnout", but fewer than might have been expected if it had not been school holidays.

A special Anzac Day service was held at the Mackenzie Highland Show in Fairlie.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers president William Rolleston paid tribute not only to the thousands of men who lost their lives in battle, but also to the horses which were killed in the Boer War and World War I.

South Canterbury RSA president David Wood said the association had gone through changes, but the public of New Zealand had demonstrated a wish to see it remain part of the fabric of society.

"I see the RSA in the future as being a caretaker of history as well as the community focal point of all things military. In the last 90 years we've served a leading role in the care and welfare of the returned men and women of many conflicts.

"This site was once the site of the Beverley War Veterans' Home. The welfare needs of the RSA are diminishing and I hope that the organisation continues to flourish in other ways. We will be the perpetual guardians of the memory of those who have sacrificed themselves in conflict no matter how much time has past.

"The South Canterbury RSA is strong and knows where it is going. We're a living monument to freedom and a constant reminder that it didn't come free."

World War II veteran Jack Mettrick, who served in the 23rd Battalion in Egypt and Italy, has attended Anzac Day services since 1946, and was at both the dawn and 10am services. The day was still important to him as a chance to think about friends who never made it back from war, he said.

Attending Anzac Day services with their grandfather, Ian Mehlhopt, is a family tradition for Christchurch cousins Paige Swan, 19, and Andrew Mehlhopt, 17, in Timaru yesterday to join him for the dawn service. "It's something we have done every year with Granddad," Mr Mehlhopt said.

The day was important because family members had served during the wars, they said.

"We should appreciate them," Miss Swan said.

The Timaru Herald