Whanga¯rei marks the hour that ended the Great War

The Northern Advocate - - 48 Hours / Cover Story - Lindy Laird

Ev­ery year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month New Zealan­ders cel­e­brate the peace that limped into his­tory af­ter four ter­ri­ble years of war. ”Cel­e­brate” might be the wrong word — be­cause although the event com­mem­o­rates the end of what was called The Great War, there is very lit­tle party at­mo­sphere as­so­ci­ated with it.

Not so much about the com­ing of peace as the end of war, Ar­mistice Day is a lit­tle like An­zac Day but with a much later morn­ing start and fewer wreaths.

It’s the day when the peo­ple of many na­tions stop for one minute and bow their heads in si­lence to re­mem­ber those who didn’t re­turn from World War I.

To­mor­row it will be 100 years ago since lead­ers of shat­tered na­tions made the dec­la­ra­tion that put an end to”the war to end all wars”.

The sig­na­tures may well have been writ­ten in the blood of 16 mil­lion who died or were wounded — sol­diers and civil­ians, po­lit­i­cal mar­i­onettes, mar­tinets and martyrs, 16 mil­lion fates de­cided in war rooms, back­rooms and bat­tle­grounds.

More than 18,000 New Zea­land sol­diers died in or soon af­ter World War I, out of 100,000 New Zea­land men who signed up and went over­seas to fight. More than 41,000 New Zealan­ders were wounded.

All up, it was a huge toll from a na­tional pop­u­la­tion of just over one mil­lion peo­ple.

Back in 1918, some­times later de­pend­ing on when the ships came in, there were some pa­rades and ser­vices, pub­lic out­pour­ings of re­lief, along with

There was no Ar­mistice Day street pa­rade in Whanga¯rei un­til late in Jan­uary, 1919. Cel­e­bra­tions were muted be­cause of the out­break of the Span­ish Flu pan­demic, which very soon killed many New Zealan­ders on home soil.

pent-up grief, ways civil­ians could fi­nally stand along­side the troops who had fought thou­sands of miles away, wel­come them home and help them dream of a fu­ture.

But in gen­eral, the ar­mistice was not greeted with pub­lic ju­bi­la­tion — this was not the same pub­lic party as seen at the end of World War II.

Fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties were too de­pleted, too many young men were maimed, too many dead.

There was no Ar­mistice Day street pa­rade in Whanga¯rei un­til late in Jan­uary, 1919.

Ar­mistice cel­e­bra­tions were muted, too, be­cause of the out­break of the Span­ish Flu pan­demic which ar­rived around the same time as war ended, and very soon killed many New Zealan­ders on home soil.

In two months, be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber 1918, New Zea­land lost about half as many peo­ple to in­fluenza as it had in the whole of the war.

By the time the pan­demic eased in De­cem­ber, the death toll had reached 9000. Ma¯ori suf­fered par­tic­u­larly heav­ily, with about 2500 deaths.

Through­out New Zea­land, some com­mu­ni­ties were dec­i­mated and oth­ers es­caped largely un­scathed. Mil­i­tary camps were struck with great sever­ity.

World War I had ended, but the dy­ing did not. For for­mer gen­er­a­tions of New

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