Poignant mem­o­ries

The some of the cast of what An­zac Day means to them. asked

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE -

Stephen Lo­vatt

My grand­fa­ther, who I knew well, had his 19th birth­day in the trenches of Gal­lipoli.

He was wounded twice and sent back twice. He was told he could go home af­ter the re­treat from Gal­lipoli but he wasn’t done. He reen­listed and served for the rest of the war on the Western Front.

At the out­break of WWII he tried to re-en­list but at 43 he was too old and was prob­a­bly con­sid­ered more use­ful to the Kiwi war ef­fort as a suc­cess­ful farmer. He was used as a drill sergeant ma­jor for the ini­tial train­ing of men at a camp in the Wairarapa.

I have been given his dress medals of ser­vice – he wore them ev­ery year to An­zac Day pa­rades. Tim Carlsen An­zac Day for me is about re­mem­brance of those who fought and suf­fered for free­dom and for the many who never re­turned home.

It’s a day that continues to re­veal sto­ries of in­trigue and mys­tery of what war was re­ally about and how the hu­man spirit per­se­vered such ex­trem­i­ties. It’s also a re­minder that even to­day war is still an on­go­ing ‘‘event’’ that takes place and af­fects mil­lions of people world­wide – from soldiers to civil­ians.

My grand­fa­ther,

Bill McGechie, served in WWII in the RNZAF. Be­ing in the air force made sense for him at the time – it looked glam­orous, you get to fly and of course the uni­form looked good.

Be­ing com­pletely new to fly­ing, this fresh re­cruit trained for sev­eral months in New Zealand be­fore serv­ing abroad. He had a close call in Gis­borne when his air­craft, a Har­vard trainer, struck trees on an air­field boundary dur­ing a night flight. The plane was de­stroyed and he was se­ri­ously in­jured.

I can re­call him show­ing me a piece of the para­chute that he had kept since the in­ci­dent in 1943 and would still man­age a laugh or two as he de­scribed his brush with fate. Kevin Keys My most vivid mem­o­ries of An­zac Day come from the ser­vices in Welling­ton where I used to play in the air force band as a mu­sic stu­dent. This meant stand­ing on pa­rade for long stretches as the ser­vice went on at the ceno­taph and I was al­ways ad­mir­ing of the army sen­tries’ still­ness and sto­icism – es­pe­cially in the pelt­ing rain and wind of Welling­ton. I was def­i­nitely more fid­gety than them.

It was the mo­ments of still­ness and re­flec­tion dur­ing those cer­e­monies that had the most mean­ing for me – a bub­ble of time to think of the hero­ism, the sac­ri­fice and the in­cred­i­ble waste of life rep­re­sented by those be­ing re­mem­bered.

Photo: ANDREW GORRIE

Fam­ily con­nec­tion: Ac­tor Stephen Lo­vatt’s grand­fa­ther cel­e­brated his 19th birth­day in the trenches of Gal­lipoli.

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