Heather Roy

8 August 2018

Today is the anniversary of the attack on Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli. There has been no mention in mainstream media today, that I could find, of the attack and occupation of the Chunuk Bair summit on 8 August 2015, but the date is important to those like myself who served in the 5 Wellington, West Coast, Tarnaki Battalion Group (5WWCT). 8 August is the birthday of the battalion.

New Zealand History notes this on the attack on Chunuk Bair:

The high point of the New Zealand effort at Gallipoli, the attack on Chunuk Bair underlined the leadership qualities of Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone.

The Wellington Battalion occupied the summit before dawn on 8 August. With sunrise came a barrage of fire from Ottoman Turks holding higher ground to the north. A desperate struggle to hold Chunuk Bair ensued. By the time the Wellingtons were relieved that evening, only 70 of the battalion’s 760 men were still standing. Malone was one of the casualties, killed by an Allied shell about 5 p.m.

Recent events around freedom of speech have prompted me to ask yet again, what it is these brave men fought for? The answer of course is freedom – freedom to live our lives as we see fit, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of speech. Freedoms that are easily lost if we lose sight of what they mean and fail to protect them.

The recent visit to New Zealand by controversial Canadians Southern and Molyneux has stirred up commentary on freedom of speech from all quarters. Freedom of speech and hate speech have been used to counter each other, and the terminology often used – inappropriately I believe – to reinforce particular points of view. The discussion however has been useful. Everything eventually finds it’s own level and the disgraceful banning yesterday of Don Brash’s appearance at a Massey University political forum is an example. People who would normally not ever have supported Dr Brash have come out against Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas and her ridiculous call to curtail his appearance as an invited guest.

The best article I’ve read around this subject is by Tim Watkin: ‘Good’ is a conversation … what NZs weekend of division should teach us.

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other.

Today I remember the sacrifices of Lt Col William Malone and his troops at Chunuk Bair so tomorrow, we can live in a free country where tolerance of each other is prized and the freedoms our forebears fought for are appreciated and defended.