On 25th April 2020, the Sisters and the Boarding School pupils held our own ANZAC Day service to remember those brave soldiers who have fallen in the wars in defense of their countries and ideals. We typically make sure we get to the Dawn Service each year, but this year the lockdown has made that impossible, much to the disappointment of the “old-timers” who had looked forward each year to this special parade honouring ANZAC Day.
Father Albert sung a Requeim Mass in the Sisters’ chapel in Nazareth, and presided at the service. The whole community assembled just a little distance from the Parish Church together with the boarders, and prayed for the souls of the dead while honouring those who have fought for their fatherland.
Mother Micaela gave a speech, which is reproduced below:
Anzac Day is the day all Australians and New Zealanders celebrate as a very solemn day. 25 April is, of course, the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Dardanelles. The campaign was a disaster from the start and caused great loss of life. Incredible bravery was shown by the men who did manage to get ashore but eventually after some months they were taken off again with further loss of life.
We celebrate on this day because Australians and New Zealanders regard the Anzac campaign as the time when our two nations found themselves as nations and not just as a collection of British Colonies.
When I was a child Anzac Day was just as big as it is now. We were delighted to go and see the Anzac Day Parade in Wellington which went from the Public Library to the War Memorial known as the Cenotaph. The Catholic servicemen used to go to a Solemn High Requiem Mass at St Mary of the Angels and then march down to join the Protestant servicemen for the march.
As we stood on the footpath we would see first of all very old men being driven past in military jeeps. They were veterans of the Boer War, which was fought against Sister Catherine’s ancestors. It was a very unjust war because the Boers were only fighting to protect their homes and the British Empire was trying to take their land away from them. In fact, had the British learned from the Boer War and the Maori Wars, World War I would have been very different.
Next in the parade would come some men who were rather old. World War I veterans – including our Grandad, who went to war rather reluctantly as he was just married. He was in the Artillery because he was good with horses – you have to remember it was a horse-drawn world in those days. “Mud up to the horses’ bellies”, Grandad said. However the artillery was rather a mistake as Grandad was colour blind. He couldn’t tell the difference between red and green and all the artillery communication was done with red and green flares. Grandad was wounded one day when he was sitting in a trench when a shell came over and took off the head of his best friend, called Rana Waitai, who was sitting next to him, and sliced off part of Grandad’s knee. Grandad stopped the doctors taking off his leg and the leg healed absolutely unbendable. I didn’t think when I was young but it must have been a terrible handicap for Grandad having a knee that didn’t bend.
Then the Parade brought along the men from the Second World War, which was our father’s group. When my father’s battalion marched past all you could hear was tramp-tramp clink! clink! – and what was the clink clink? – their medals! One the things that Battalion was honoured for was capturing the first Tiger Tank taken by the Eighth Army. This is how it really happened. Dad was out on patrol with his platoon when they came across and abandoned German Tank. They said, “Oh an abandoned German Tank,” and my father, ever a humourist, got up on top to do a Highland Fling. Suddenly the lid opened and out came five Germans!
My father put his hands up but the German officer said, “No, we want to surrender. We’re sick of the war.” So Dad went for his revolver. When he marched the Germans back through the town to Headquarters Italian civilians came out with glasses of wine for him and the other New Zealanders. Dad said to give some to the Germans but the Italian man he spoke to refused and spat at the Germans. Dad supposed they had had a bad time from the Germans.
My father, having fought in North Africa and right up through the Italian Peninsula was wounded in Rimini in the North of Italy. They were lying on the ground because of the bullets when a man crawled up beside Dad and said that Dad’s platoon had to go up on top of a stop-bank. Dad said, “It’s a crazy thing to do,” but the man said, “It’s an order.” Dad found out afterwards it wasn’t an order but it was too late then. Dad and his platoon walked into a German Machine-Gun nest and they were shot to pieces. One of Dad’s companions threw a grenade at the Germans and one of them was wounded too. Dad and that German spent the night cuddled up to each other sharing cigarettes and waiting to be rescued. Dad found out after that the German was only eighteen and he had lost a leg. Dad’s leg was very badly wounded but they managed to save it, though he never again walked without pain.
After the World War II men had passed us in the parade there came the soldiers from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. You need to ask Mother Teresa Joseph about the Vietnam War as her father fought in that war. He was in the Marines, a very elite corps.
I’ve only touched on the conflicts in which Australians and New Zealanders were involved. I haven’t really dealt with the War in Asia and the Pacific but our Singaporean and Filipino friends will know about those. Australians fought in New Guinea and New Zealanders and Americans in the Islands. Also, there were Canadians in the wars and America came into the war decisively each time in 1917 and 1941 just when the British were losing the war and helped to turn the tide.
As another Anzac Day passes let us be conscious of our obligation to pray for the millions of men, and some women too, killed in recent wars.
We’ll think of them as we listen to Lawrence Binyon’s poem, “For the Fallen.” The response to the last line is, “We will remember them.”
A bugle being lacking, Sr Jacinta played the Last Post and Reveille on her clarinet. We then sung the national anthem of New Zealand and Australia, accompanied by Monica on the bagpipes and Sr Anna on the violin.