Heather Roy

25 April 2018

Today I’m commemorating ANZAC Day at the Sounds Soldier’s Memorial at Torea Bay, Marlborough Sounds.

We’ve embarked on the last of 4 years of commemoration of World War I. I’m adding the speech below to the Onesock archives: I delivered it to the ANZAC Day commemorations in my home town of Palmerston, Otago in 2015 where I paraded with my father and daughter. The speech focuses on the sacrifices made during WWI but in learning the lessons of history we must also recognise and acknowledge the contemporary New Zealand veterans who have served in more recent conflicts. My speech to the Havelock (Marlborough) ANZAC Day Service in 2017 recognised our more recent veterans too.

ANZAC Day Speech, 25 April 2015
Palmerston and Dunback Services
Captain, the Honourable Heather Roy

On this day 100 years ago, a force of 75,000 allied soldiers landed on the beaches at Gallipoli. Among them were 30,000 volunteers from Australia and New Zealand. They were called the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp – the ANZACs – and they give their name to this day.

The total population of New Zealand in 1914 was just over 1 million.  120,000 New Zealanders enlisted – 103,000 of them served overseas. 10 percent of our population at the time. Approximately half of all military aged males.

The assault on the steep hills of Gallipoli was part of a daring plan to knock Turkey out of the war and, by turning Germany’s flank, to break out of the stalemate of trench warfare in France.

It was a failure and a national tragedy where poorly prepared soldiers perished for a strategic notion.

More than 2,700 New Zealanders died at Gallipoli, a quarter of the total NZ forces sent to the Peninsula. In total 18,500 New Zealanders died in or because of WW1.

A century is a long time to remember these dramatic events. No veteran of Gallipoli survives to remind us. No nation that I know of, apart from Australia and New Zealand, marks a great military victory let alone a great defeat with the deep feeling that we do after so many years.

It is a great honour to speak at this commemoration, and to March as part of three generations born out of East Otago alongside my father and daughter.

The first ANZAC Day I can remember was parading here in Palmerston in my Brownie uniform at the War Memorial where we laid wreaths this morning. I have attended more ANZAC services here than anywhere else so it was the obvious place for me to commemorate 100 years of ANZAC remembrances, and very special to be here with my parents, siblings and their families and my husband and children.

ANZAC day is a time for families to remember. Today mine will remember and undoubtedly talk about several family members:

My father’s father (Frank Jopson) served with the Otago Mounted Rifles for the entirety of WW1. He was wounded at Gallopli, but went on to fight at Passchendale and the Somme.

My mother’s father (Jack Fraser) also served with the Otago Mounted Rifles. His troop reached Egypt and because of the lack of feed for the horses they had to shoot them. These “mounted troops” essentially became infantry.

My Grandmother’s brother (James Hamilton), the youngest of 10 children and the only boy in the family, was killed in WW2 in Libya aged 25 – one of so many fallen kiwis whose lives had barely begun.

My Scottish father-in-law (John Roy) was injured in France during WW2 and after recuperating joined the merchant navy carrying troops for the rest of that war, including bringing New Zealand soldiers home. Not much later it became his adoptive home.

We are no different to every other kiwi family for whom these stories become folklore. They remind us of the sacrifices our forebears made so that we – their children and their children’s children – could live in peace and experience freedom. These stories contribute to the meaning of this day.

Who were these young men who were prepared to lay down their lives in Gallipoli?
I can say it no better than an unknown New Zealand poet, the author of “25th April 1915”.

They came from field and factory,
From desk and fishing fleet,
From shearing shed and foundry,
From hill and plain and street;
Kin of the old sea rovers,
Sons of that stubborn strain
That swallowed all invasions –
Saxon and Norse and Dane.

Today is truly a national day, the most solemn in the year’s calendar. It’s hold on our imagination has little to do with the events in military history; everything to do with the enduring mark the ANZAC experience left on our national character. The landings at ANZAC cove were not carried out by professional soldiers, but by a citizens army – Reservists like those of us here in uniform today. The losses, the endurance and the sadness of failure were not something read about, they were part of the nation’s experience. Everybody had a relative or a friend in the ANZACs and everybody felt their deeds as their own.

This was equally true of the Second World War. The experience of war has left a deep imprint on us.

New Zealand has a long history of contributing to global peace and security. Over the past century, despite distance and size, New Zealand has consistently used its voice on the world stage in support of democracy and international peace.

We can be proud of those who served in Gallipoli, proud of those who served in every other campaign New Zealand has been part of, just as New Zealand should be proud of those who serve today.

The legacy of those who fought and fell in Gallipoli 100 years ago and subsequently is that of peAce, hope and freedom. Let us remember that particularly today but also on each of the other 364 days of the year as a Mark of our gratitude.

I’ll finish with the final verse of “25th April 1915:

Their names shall live forever,
In the Halls of Memory,
They gave their lives as ransom
That we who live be free,
They bought us peace and freedom,
Nor grudges the utmost price.
God grant that we prove worthy
Of their great sacrifice.

Lest we forget.