|War is declared on the steps of the parliament buildings in New Zealand. (image from te ara)|
New Zealand lost 18,000 dead and 40,000 wounded from a mobilised total of 100,000 men and a total population of just over a million. The Great War scarred us as a nation. One of my great uncles was killed in Flanders fighting for New Zealand while back at home his family was suffering abuse because of their German heritage. Those who refused to participate were treated cruelly and those who served and suffered what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder were left to fend for themselves in a world that couldn't - or wouldn't -understand them. At the same time the New Zealand Division performed admirably on the battlefield and left a legacy of pride and honour for this country. We regard Gallipoli as the birthplace of the nation, and ANZAC Day has grown more and more important as the years have passed.
|Standing some years ago at the New Zealand memorial at Le Quesnoy in Northern France, scene of one of the most dramatic actions undertaken by the NZ Division in the Great War. Also - My first time in snow ever!|
|German premonition of the coming conflict. The Spirit of Spring wonders: ‘Will the god of war crush the young flowers this year with his iron foot’. Simplicissimus.|
As you can probably tell, my reaction to the Great War is a bag of mixed emotions. It fills me with sorrow, yet also with pride; it was tragic, yet glorious; it was unnecessary, but not futile. There were no goodies or baddies - history is rarely that black and white (which makes me angry when people try to paint Germany as some sort of pantomime villain). Our understanding of the fighting in the war is finally starting to find some balance in the popular press, and this is a good thing, even if it has not sunk in with the broader public. But more than anything, the war is always with me. A day does not go by when I don't think about it in some way (is that healthy?).
Today above all days, I will remember them.