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Winston Peters speech at Gallipoli - full text

Published: 2:39PM Wednesday April 25, 2007

E nga reo, e nga mana, e nga waka
E nga pu korero o nga hau e wha
E rau rangatira ma
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

(Distinguished leaders and distinguished guests gathered here today, men and women from the four corners of the Earth, greetings to you, one and all.)

It is an honour to have the opportunity to address this Anzac Dawn Service on behalf of the government and the people of New Zealand.

The concept of sacred space is one to which many New Zealanders can relate.  Maori culture perceives the land as a living entity, and the people and the land as one.

As the resting place for so many of our war-dead, Gallipoli has become one such sacred place for all New Zealanders.  The bravery of our soldiers and the losses they suffered here 92 years ago remain seared into our history books and archives, and into our national psyche.

Gallipoli is widely regarded as a significant milestone in our passage towards nationhood and the birth of a unique New Zealand identity.

The human cost of that campaign, and later on the Western Front, left few communities untouched in our small country. Memorials still stand in every town in every corner of the land. The long lists of names etched on them a testimony to how deeply the war penetrated New Zealand society.

But as we reflect on this terrible episode, we are mindful that Gallipoli was also the cornerstone of more positive developments that could never have been foreshadowed in 1915.

The Anzac camaraderie forged here between New Zealand and Australian soldiers remains a fundamental tenet of our relationship today.

A spirit of reconciliation and shared grief over the dead has grown into a wide and constructive relationship that we now share with the government and people of Turkey.  

Today we extend heartfelt thanks to our Turkish hosts for their generosity and considerable support in making these annual commemorations possible. 
New Zealand's Expeditionary Force in 1915 numbered 8427 men - a huge initial contribution for a country of one million people.  Prior to Gallipoli these soldiers had been training, they thought, for deployment to France.

However with the western front deadlocked by trench warfare, the Allies were looking to other theatres for ways to break the stalemate.

Thus, the Anzacs were pitched into an ill-conceived campaign for which few of them were prepared.  On 25 April they began making landfall with instructions to push inland and overrun the Turkish forts.

They were to learn that courage and natural ability cannot compensate for failures in planning, leadership and logistics.

Under constant fire from the start, many troops were hit before even making it to shore.  The survivors found themselves pinned down on the cruelly exposed beach, which was soon strewn with wounded and dead.

As the New Zealand poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell wrote:

"The light of adventure that shone so brightly in our eyes when we set out was extinguished that day. Young men from the farms, the mines, the cities, the public schools, we died in a vast quagmire of blood and broken bodies. No one told us it would be like this."

Those who managed to fight their way up the cliffs and gullies found the terrain ahead of them to be as hostile as the fierce Turkish defence.

Letters home hint at the hardships and deprivations that soldiers endured throughout the eight-month campaign. 

Shortages of food and water, extreme weather conditions, swarming flies, debilitating disease, snipers and the incessant barrage of artillery were the constant companions of men clinging to their positions in shallow trenches. 

The human cost of the campaign was enormous, with over half a million casualties, including 130,000 dead.

New Zealand lost 2721 men - more than one in four of our contingent - while an estimated 86,000 Turks were killed. The effects of those losses reverberated throughout our societies long after the war ended.

New Zealand soldiers had a great regard for the bravery and military skills of the Turks who fought in defence of their country.

After the war, it was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a divisional commander at Gallipoli and later founder of the Turkish Republic, who paved the way for reconciliation.

His generous words, which are engraved on the battlefield here and on the memorial to Atatürk back home in Wellington, continue to have resonance for New Zealanders and will never be forgotten. 

In remembering the suffering and loss on both sides, let us commit ourselves to working for a world where differences between nations can be resolved without resort to war.

That is the way that we can best honour the men who fought and died here.