Saturday, 25 April 2015

'Lest We Forget' - Anzac 2015

 At Trentham on 3rd October 1939, volunteers from Welington,
Wellington-West Coast, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki Territorial
Districts entered camp to form the 19th (Wellington)
Battalion 4th Brigade NZ. Division.

Sailing for Egypt in January 1940 the unit served with British and
Allied forces in the Middle East and Central Mediterranean
throughout the Second World War.

The Battalion received its baptism of fire at Servia Pass is Greece where
it beat off a force of veteran Austrian troops. Following heavy fighting
in Greece and in Crete the 19th campaigned in North Africa and Syria.
The final engagement as an infantry unit was in the desperate fighting
to establish the line at El Alamein when the Division stood almost
alone in the defence of Alexandria. On July 14/15 1942 at Ruweisat Ridge,
 the 19th suffered casualties of half its numbers when overrun by superior
armour. 1940-42 had been the dark years when the free nations of the
world had to pay a heavy price for unpreparedness. Their citizen
armed services had fought courageously,  often in defeat,
against an enemy superior in arms and air cover. But
the flood tide of Axis tyranny was about to turn.

The 19th, with the 4th Brigade, was now withdrawn to base camp at
Maadi inEgypt to reform on October 3rd as the 4th N.Z.
Armoured Brigade. Later, men of the 1st N.Z. Armoured Brigade,
mostly South Islanders and already trained in armour in New Zealand,
brought the 19th N.Z. Armoured Regiment up to full strength...

 These are the three veteran soldiers of the 19th Armoured Regiment
from Christchurch, who are still alive today...

Sailing to Italy in October 1943, equipped with Sherman medium tanks,
the 19th at Perano were the first N.Z. Armour to be committed to battle.
The terrain, the mud and cold of two winters were to be in contrast
to North Africa. The Regiment fought throughout the long and arduous
Italian campaign, mainly in close support of the N.Z. Infantry. The
German enemy were resolute and skilful in defense of the many natural
obstacles, holding the barrier to Rome, the Gustav Line at Cassino
for three months. On the 2nd May 1945 the 19th entered Trieste, occupying
the town for three months after the close of the war in Europe.

De-mobilisation was completed in N.Z. in 1946.

     Casualities      Killed or died on active service   227
                                            Wounded and Prisoners of War   921

 The crowds of several hundred people who came to remember... 

 The sun rising over Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains as we
gathered together, members of the 19th, wives, widows, sons
and daughters, families, friends, supporters and
 members of the public.

 Members of the Queen Alexandras Mounted Rifles Regiment - RNZAC
who formed 'The Parade' and performed the flag ceremonies.
Here the flag is broken...

 Two of the remaining veterans of the 19th lay wreaths...

 'The Parade' at attention...
 Members of the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts lay their poppies...

 Followed by families and members of the public...

 Silence... As we remember...

 The Last Post is played by Bugler Anthony Smith as Ross Smith, one
of the memorial guardians who gave an address, salutes the flag...
And Peter Griffen, another guardian who read the Ode...

 The flag is lowered... Never to touch the ground...

 And as the bugler plays the Reveille...

 It is raised again.

Then... And now... A 70 years age gap...
Afterwards, while we all had warming cups of coffee with
double rations of rum... This young soldier from the Queen 
Alexandras Mounted Rifles Regiment, whose grandfather had
been in the early Wellington 19th contingent came to chat with Dad...
It was a very special moment as youth met with age, hands were
shaken... And this young soldier who hasn't yet seen active
service said it was a real privledge to meet with a soldier
who had given and contributed so much to our freedom...

 Here is Dad with one of  his son's, my brother Tony. They were both
active from the beginning days in building the 19th Memorial.
On the left is the man, now retired, who was the Victoria Park
Ranger for 27 years. He now looks after the 19th Memorial as a
guardian on a voluntary basis. On the right is Gary Moore,
the 44th Mayor of Christchurch 1998-2007. 
He has come to the Anzac Service here, every year since 1999.

 Dad and Tony meet one of the Junior Guardians... The Park Rangers
grandson... Who is being trained up to take over the maintenance
of this wonderful memorial and picnic place in the years to come.
Read more here about the story behind the planting of all the trees,
some native to the countries in which the unit served, and some
N.Z. native trees representing those who served and returned home.

Dad planted a Beech tree, under which his ashes will be buried
when he dies...

 Read this article if you can, it's a few years old now,  these
two returned veterans are long gone... And read the link above
to find out more about the guardian scheme and how to
become one if you are interested.

Dad and Des Tomkies... Time to say goodbye... For another year...
Till we meet again...

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