Anzac Day: More relevant than ever before

Veteran Eric Wilson, who has just turned 102, leads the conclusion of Howick’s Anzac Day commemorations. Times photo Wayne Martin

In the wake of Howick’s annual Anzac Day commemorations, two naval veterans think it is only growing in importance. NATHAN LIMM explains.

Two of Howick’s senior naval veterans say Anzac Day commemorations are more relevant now than ever before.

Locals gathered on Stockade Hill on Sunday for annual services remembering all New Zealanders who participated in action overseas.

John Titmus, vice-president of the Howick RSA, served in the Royal New Zealand Navy for more than 20 years.

He says the world is more conflict-conscious than ever.

“You can go home and get instant news all the time about conflicts all around the world which otherwise you wouldn’t know about.”

New Zealand troops are currently deployed in the likes of Syria, Iraq and South Sudan.

Titmus says Anzac Day commemorations are a big boost to Kiwis serving overseas.

“I actually think it’s miles more important today than it was yesterday. It almost stops the nation. It usually cuts across political boundaries.”

Mike Cole, a fellow naval veteran who served for 23 years, participated in conflicts in Malaya and Borneo.

He was aboard the HMNZS Otago in 1973 when they witnessed the Mururoa Atoll nuclear test in Tahiti by the French.

Cole says without the Anzacs, New Zealand could be a very different country.

“You wouldn’t have the freedoms you enjoy today; the freedom of speech and association.

The entire history of the world could’ve gone another way.”

Titmus says there are few Kiwi families unaffected by the World Wars.

“My dad fought and was wounded in Italy. He was pretty battered and bruised psychologically in 1945. My Grandfather was in Passchendaele and on the Somme.”

Both veterans agree New Zealand derives its sense of national identity from wartime.

Cole says the infamous Gallipoli campaign was the first time New Zealand was recognised as a country.

“They went away as Cantabrians or Aucklanders and they realised in the trenches we were all one. They got a sense of identity of being New Zealanders.”

The day also reinforces the partnership Aotearoa has with Australia.

Cole says New Zealanders have fought alongside our trans-Tasman neighbours throughout history.

“Basically they’re our brothers; they’re just over the ditch there. We become a stronger and better force.”

Titmus says turnouts for Anzac Day commemorations seem to be on the rise.

“What’s staggering these days is the amount of kids that show up for dawn service. It didn’t used to happen but now it’s almost a family thing.”

The day marks 106 years since the Gallipoli campaign began.

  • Nathan Limm is a 20-year-old student in the third year of his journalism degree. He has grown up and done all his schooling in Howick, most recently attending Howick College. He is currently working as a sports journalist with Newstalk ZB.

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