Editorial: A time to remember

21:55, May 21 2013

By 6am the section of Timaru's Queen St around the city's cenotaph was crammed with people, standing in the road, on footpaths, waiting for a service that is short, and simple, yet deeply moving.

In numerous other locations around South Canterbury and New Zealand that scene was being repeated. Within a couple of hours, the same thing would be happening across the ditch. Numbers differed, as did weather conditions, but the reason for gathering was exactly the same. To remember.

In Timaru, South Canterbury RSA president Tom Palmer told the more than 500 people assembled it was on this date that "Anzac had its baptism of fire".

Of course, those who gathered across two countries, or attended Anzac services in other locations, such as on the World War I battlefields of Europe, were remembering not just the landing on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula 98 years earlier, but any number of conflicts that Kiwis and Australians have been part of.

And as was emphasised in the half hour or so in Queen St, we were there, primarily, to remember those who left for foreign shores and never returned. From the South African War (also known as the Boer War), to "the war to end all wars" - the fiery global conflict in which the Anzac concept and spirit were forged - to the Second World War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, right through to Afghanistan, a mission from which our last deployment of troops has just returned. And that's by no means an exhaustive list.

Sadly, as reflected by Tom Palmer following the Citizens' service at the Caroline Bay Soundshell, "we still live in a very troubled world". Which suggests the list of conflicts our defence force is called to be involved in will grow further in time.


That troubled world is undoubtedly a factor in the attendance of some young people at Anzac commemorations, but some of those who attend are far too young to appreciate the significance of these events yet.

Which suggests that successive generations of Kiwis have been diligent in introducing youngsters - be it at home or at school - to one of the most important days in New Zealand history.

Yesterday morning I stood behind three generations of a family, including two children too young to yet understand why they were there. But as they keep being brought, and seeing their grandparents and parents honour those who have gone before, there's no doubt these commemorations will become a meaningful part of their lives as well, and be passed on to their children.

And that needs to keep happening year after year. Lest, one day, we forget.

The Timaru Herald