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Speech

New Zealand Commemorative Service for the Battle of Beersheba

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, o enei takiwa me te hau kainga o Aotearoa, tena koutou katoa.

Haere mai tatau ki te whakamahara i a ratau, nga toa, nga rakaukawa o nga pakanga o mua.

Tena koutou nga toa, nei ra taku kupu, Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Hapaitia ake to mana toa.

I acknowledge the authorities and representatives of Israel and of New Zealand.

Let us gather today to remember and to commemorate of those who fought in battles in WW1.

Greetings also to the soldiers. We wish you bravery, strength and endurance.

It is an honour to be here today and to be joined by so many New Zealanders, Australians and Israelis, as we remember momentous events of 100 years ago.

Today, we gather to honour the men of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, the Rarotongan Company and the New Zealand companies of the Imperial Camel Corps who served in the Middle East.

One hundred years ago today, members of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade seized this hill – then known as Tel el Saba – after a skilled and daring operation against Ottoman forces.

From this vantage point, we can appreciate the courage and determination required to capture this imposing and dominating hill – and appreciate how their success opened the way for the renowned charge of the Australian Light Horse and the capture of Beersheba.

The valiant efforts of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles – here and at other locations, most notably at Ayun Kara near Tel Aviv on 14 November – have been largely overshadowed by Gallipoli and battles in France and Belgium.

Today we are bringing their contribution out of the shadows and giving them the recognition that they so justly deserve.

1917 was the hardest year of the War for New Zealand and its allies.

On the Western Front New Zealand experienced an unprecedented ordeal by fire – including two costly victories and a bloody disaster at Passchendaele on 12 October.

During that year, the New Zealand Armed Forces suffered more than 5,500 fatalities – a cruel loss for a country of just over one million citizens.

Even the architect of New Zealand’s war effort, Defence Minister Sir James Allen, began to wonder if the country was “being bled to death”.  

Beersheba was therefore a rare and welcome victory, a boost to a war-weary nation, which seemed to be nearing the end of its reserves of fortitude and manpower.

New Zealand’s participation in the First World War had a profound impact on how our nation saw its place in the world. We became more determined than ever to ensure that our national interests would be properly balanced against the good of the common cause.

There was a renewed commitment to stand against unprovoked military aggression, to work to uphold human rights and to seek international co-operation in defence of peace.

These principles have shaped New Zealand’s foreign and defence policies in the 100 years that followed.

They have led our nation to take an active part in the League of Nations and later the United Nations, as well as other international initiatives to promote and preserve peace.

New Zealand now participates in the international campaign against terrorism, initiatives to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and peace-support operations, including long-term contributions to regional peace-keeping initiatives in the Middle East.

New Zealand has been a supporter of Israel since its establishment in 1948. We are fundamentally committed to Israel’s right to live in peace.

To this end, over 2000 New Zealand troops have served in peace-keeping roles on Israel’s borders since 1948. New Zealand is one of seven countries that serves in both the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation in the Golan Heights and in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.

Today, I acknowledge the gracious support of the government of Israel and the municipality of Be’er Sheva, which has made it possible to hold this service of remembrance.

We are also grateful to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority for agreeing to this commemoration ceremony in this UNESCO World Heritage site.

I hope that today’s commemorations inspire a greater awareness of the Sinai-Palestine campaign in New Zealand.

By honouring the part played by our soldiers in events that changed the course of history, we are helping to ensure that this place of great antiquity will forever remain part of the heritage of both of our nations.

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

 

 

 

 

Last updated: 
Sunday, 5 November 2017

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