There is no doubt that the reading of those names during our Anzac Day service each year, along with the names of those who died in the Second World War, contributes to a very moving and poignant service.
On Anzac Day here in this Chapel and throughout the country we remember those who gave their lives in fighting for what they believed in and for our future. At the same time, we acknowledge and give thanks for the thousands who were prepared to give their lives, because by going to war that is precisely what they were doing. And that takes courage.
Courage has got to be one of the most vital and important qualities to be sought and strived for if we are to make any sort of impact with our lives; if we are to provide strong leadership in our community, whatever that community might be.
It takes courage to stand up for what you believe is right; it takes courage to go the extra mile, no matter how much it hurts; it takes courage to make a decision which you know is not going to be popular; it takes courage to be true to yourself and to hang with the expectations of others, with peer pressure.
As New Zealanders we compete and perform on the world stage in a wide range of human endeavour. We do more than hold our own. We manage this through a blend of ingenuity, independence and courage, qualities which are endemic in a people with a pioneering heritage such as that of New Zealanders, qualities which were manifested in the trenches and horrendous conditions of Gallipoli, as well as other fields of combat throughout last century.
I had two great-uncles who served at Gallipoli. One of them returned and was promoted to the rank of Major General in the Second World War. The other great-uncle, John Wilder, was killed on Hill 60 at Gallipoli. He lies in an unmarked grave and his name is recorded on a monument there along with many other Kiwi names. I visited that monument on Hill 60 some years ago and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
I have a copy of John Wilder’s diary that he kept while fighting at Gallipoli and I would like to read to you a couple of excerpts from that diary.
Left No 1 Post about 9.00am to take Table Top, which we reached about midday to find it deserted by Turks. The Australian Light Horse had a very bad time on Walker’s Ridge, only 25 left out of the Regiment that made the charge. I saw the whole thing from Table Top and don’t want to see another sight like it. They were fairly mown down by machine guns and what did get into the Turk trenches were blown up by mines.
We have all been working pretty hard day and night improving these trenches on Table Top as they were not much good and all hands are getting very tired. We all want a spell, the whole of the New Zealand forces.
All our stores and water have to be carried up here and as it’s a long steep pull it becomes hard on a man. Also, we get very little bathing – about 5 per troop per day get a wash.
The Turks were under a ledge just beneath us, not more than 5 yards away. They threw in bomb after bomb and till we got used to them they did a lot of damage. The only thing to do was to pick them up and throw them back at the enemy.
The Turks were very frightened of their bombs. They did try shortening the fuses but after a few had burst in their own hands they went back to the long fuses again. They were just long enough to burst amongst their own chaps when returned by our men.
And a very poignant entry for August 27th.
We go for a break from the front line this afternoon. Unfortunately I missed out. Colonel would not let me go, sent McIvor instead.
The next day he was killed.
I hope none of you are ever called to make the sacrifice that those whom we remember and honour today had to make. But one thing is certain, as you make your way through the ups and downs of your varied and diverse lives, you will all be called upon to be courageous, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a big way. May God be with you as you reach within yourselves in order to find that courage.
Rev Warner Wilder
24 April 2015