Thursday, June 13, 2024

Māori pah site marked at Gallipoli

A solemn rededication and remembrance ceremony has been held on the Gallipoli Peninsula at the place where New Zealand Maori Contingent made its camp before the bloody assault on the heights of Chunuk Bair during World War I.

More than 100 people yesterday gathered at the site where the 477-strong Māori Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force arrived at Gallipoli, Türkiye, in July 1915.

Defence Minister, Andrew Little, joined official representatives from New Zealand, Türkiye and Australia, as well as the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Gallipoli contingent, descendants of 28 (Maori Battalion) and other representatives at the historic site.

It followed an approach to the President of the Gallipoli Historic Parks Directorate, Ismail Kaşdemir, by New Zealand Minister for Veterans, Meka Whaitiri, during Anzac Day commemorations last year, seeking approval to officially mark the site.

Since then, the NZDF and other agencies have worked closely with Turkish authorities in creating an information sign and improving access to the site, which is 300 metres off the main road.

During the service, a replica King’s Colour of the Pioneer (Maori) Battalion was paraded and the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, addressed those who had gathered for the emotional service.

“This place has great historical significance for Māori, and to everyone from every country with connections to this place,” he said.

“We are grateful to the Gallipoli Historic Parks Directorate for making the installation of the information sign that marks the site possible.”

The hymn Au e Ihu was sung during the ceremony, as it was in the same area on the evening of 6 August 1915, shortly before the soldiers went into action as they gathered for karakia (prayers), himene (hymns) and to farewell each other.

Soldiers from the time during the harrowing offensive recalled: “…they moved off, the platoons all cheered each other, crying ‘Ka mate, ka mate, ka ora’… We all felt and thought of our great-grandfathers’ times when they prepared to go into battle’. The chaplain’s last words to the men were: Kia māia! Kia toa! [Be brave! Be bold!]”.

Following the service on Sunday, a stirring haka was performed by the NZDF Māori Cultural Element, which echoed through the natural amphitheatre, mirroring scenes from 108 years earlier.

The NZDF contingent is in Türkiye to support Anzac Day commemorations at the Anzac commemorative site and New Zealand memorial service at Chunuk Bair.

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