Thousands pay their respects
Despite the thousands in attendance, an eerie silence fell on all those present for the largest dawn service Matamata has seen in living memory.
Service personnel, community groups, families and friends all gathered outside the Matamata Civic Centre as the sun rose on a new day, a day 100 years ago which saw bloodshed at Gallipoli.
The parade and then the crowd were then invited to pay their respects by laying a poppy at the base of the memorial shrine inside the town’s civic centre.
Along with the dawn service, a ceremony was held at the Matamata cemetery.
Speaking at the civic service, which attracted a crowd of hundreds, Baptist minister Ian Goldman reflected that soldiers had sacrificed their lives, like Jesus had sacrificed his life.
Deputy mayor James Thomas said a war that started with a sense of excitement ended with families grieving the loss of fathers, brothers and sons.
Matamata College head girl Caitlin Langlands, who spoke on behalf of head boy Connor Paki and the school, quoted the head girl of the college at the start of WWI, who remembered the solemn leaving ceremonies for the students turned soldiers conducted at the college.
Matamata RSA president Graeme Waterson ‘‘couldn’t resist plugging the fact’’ that at 0900 hours on that day his father and his troop had landed on the beach at Gallipoli.
For the first time, as part of a government initiative, the ceremony was ended with both the Australian and New Zealand national anthems.
At Walton’s civic service, along with the minister’s reflection and a speech by Matamata College deputy head boy Keiran Watkins, two men spoke of their dad’s experience with war.
Matamata-Piako District councillor Bob McGrail spoke of his father, Reginald George McGrail, who served in WWI from 1916 to 1919.
Reginald, then 16, enlisted under his mum’s maiden name and lied about his age.
This has made it hard for Bob to get replacement medals, as his father’s were buried with him. Reginald and three brothers, who were also in the army, returned home safely.
This was despite Reginald being wounded, suffering through gassing and being buried alive in an explosion.
Bob said his father, who died when he was 11, was like a stranger to him because he was in and out of hospital due to debilitating depression as a result of his service.
Derek Lugton read from his father, John Stuart Lugton’s, war diary to a standing- room- only Walton hall.
An initial medical test revealed John, then 21, had a hernia. He pushed it back in and got tested by another doctor. He was sent to Egypt during WWII.
He was captured and taken as a Prisoner Of War. He escaped from two different camps.
After the successful escape, where he racked up 600 miles of walking, he was sent home to New Zealand and discharged in 1944. Derek said his dad told him from then on he would never let anyone tell him what to do.
– For full coverage of the Matamata and Walton services, along with several Matamata school’s own special commemorations, the unveiling of Matamata’s very own Gallipoli Garden and Rotary Matamata’s Memorial Walkway, see inside.
David White’s daughters, from left, Jennifer Crosbie, Christine Clay and Margaret Wyatt attended Matamata’s Anzac dawn and cemetery services on Saturday with their father’s medals. The trio recall their muchloved and dearly missed dad on page 2.