The quiet waterfront scene of the capital was momentarily disrupted on Monday, 4 August by the sound of gunfire, to mark one hundred years since New Zealand entered the First World War. Members of the Institute team gathered on the wharf alongside a crowd vying for a view of the 100-gun salute.

Yesterday morning’s salute was the first of its kind seen by any harbour in New Zealand in over one hundred years. While the glassy Wellington waterfront was a world away from the devastating early morning scenes of Gallipoli, the salute served as a reminder for those waiting on the wharf of the 18,000 New Zealanders who fell during the war. To complement the salute, The Fields of Remembrance Trust’s field on Parliament lawn was dotted with 100 white crosses in memory of the fallen.

Over the next five years New Zealanders will take part in events to honour the Kiwi lives devoted to the war effort. Not one New Zealander was exempt from the grip of war in some way, as each New Zealand family’s stories can show. 100,000 troops fought abroad whilst nurses, sailors and ANZAC-bakers played their parts overseas and at home in our small country of one million. Around 460 Pacific Peoples and more than 2200 Māori were in the New Zealand forces.

In reply to Britain’s proclamation of war, Lord Liverpool, our first Governor-General, declared that New Zealand would ‘make any sacrifice to maintain her heritage and her birthright’. Although the relationship between
New Zealand and Britain has evolved since we followed loyally into the Great War, the historical link to ‘the motherland’ remains an important part of our fabric. However, in the upcoming months as we reflect on the lasting impacts of ‘The war to end war’, we must turn our eye to the position we now hold as leader in the Pacific community. The lives lost should serve as a reminder of our duty to create a New Zealand which is responsible to the future. Stories of war should be consigned to our history books as we all work towards a world which will not plague the next generation.

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