Community Prefect Abby May delivered an award winning speech called The Ultimate Sacrifice, which was inspired by her great grandfather and great uncle, at the Hastings Hospital ANZAC Day service. May’s speech won the ANZ RSA Cyril Bassett VC Speech Competition last year and, as a result, she attended the centenary commemorations in Gallipoli.
It’s the 25th April 1915, you’re scrambling ashore at Gallipoli with the first of the New Zealand troops, not far behind your Australian counterparts. At the tender age of 18, your pack is heavy on your back, weighing you down equally as much as the weight of your countries expectancy. The screams and bellows of injured men ring in your ears. As you reach for your gun, suddenly the men around you start to fall, they slump into the blood sodden sand amongst the hundreds that already lie there. Looking up you can see your men hopelessly trying to climb the rugged cliff side, only to be picked off by the Turks with half as much effort. A mix of panic, adrenaline and anger fill your chest.
You take aim at a stray enemy soldier, but something makes you hesitate. He is tall, strong looking, olive skin from what you can see beneath his uniform. He can’t be much older than you, has the same youthful glint in his eye. For all you know he has a 12 year old sister as you do… I’m sure she would miss him terribly. His parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, perhaps he has a devoted girlfriend back home. He is just like you, taking orders from men he barely knows in the name of his country. If he dies today, right now with your bullet, will his family ever know that he was shot in action, dare I say it by a very ordinary kiwi boy. Do you shoot?
As you look to your left your eldest brother stares back at you. The sad look in his eye tells you that its okay, that this is war and no matter the similarities or differences between you and the man on the other side, yesterday today and for an eternity of tomorrows until the war is over, your loyalties lie with the British Empire. You come to realise that if you don’t shoot him, he will shoot you. So as your brother gives you the nod… Bang.
This 18 year old, a brother, a son, a friend. I bet there would be one of these men in just about every family listening today. In leaving their country to serve for us in Gallipoli, Flanders Fields, The Somme, they were making the ultimate sacrifice. But what does this mean? To make a sacrifice is to give up something valued, for other, often more valued causes, so that I could stand here today. I am 16, I have a future be it unknown but I know it will be bright.
When referring to the sacrifice that the World War 1 veterans made it is really important to remember that these men were young. Majority were between the ages of 18 and 25. They had a lifetime of opportunities ahead of them as the young people of today do. As the youth of New Zealand we have so many available options once we leave school. We can go to university, take up apprenticeships, do some overseas travel and yet these men were plucked from their jobs, routine, family, education to do some overseas travel of their own, although in a vastly different context. 100 years on, it’s actually quite hard to imagine what this would have been like for the remainder of New Zealand. Some families lost their only source of income, others were widowed, orphaned, destined to grow up in a world without a father figure around. Imagine if it was you, your cousins, your brothers, your dad, getting on a boat set for the other side of the world, to fight in the name of the British Empire, how would you feel?
A perfect example of this sacrifice in world war 1 is shown in the story of Second Lieutenant Thomas Grace of the Wellington Battalion. Son of Lawrence Marshall Grace and Henerita Kahui Grace he was a talented sports person, an old boy of Wellington College. He was a player in the New Zealand Maori rugby side. The other men in his battalion used to joke that he was so good at throwing a grenade due to his practice with a cricket ball as a kid… He was killed in action. During a night attack by the Wellington Battalion on Chunuck Bair as they conquered those heights. He could have become one of the greatest rugby players New Zealand has ever seen. He could have married, died of old age and yet he sacrificed himself for us, defending us, in the trenches of Gallipoli, 8th August 1915.
But is this sacrifice necessarily a negative thing. Through these sacrifices came the birth of the identity of New Zealand as a nation. We sent over 103,000 young New Zealand men and women overseas to fight and serve in world war 1, over 18,500 of which died. But in saying this they were proud of who they were and where they had come from. At Gallipoli was the first time that the current New Zealand flag was ever flown. We began to refer to ourselves as kiwis. We must respect this sacrifice in the words of John Macrae, world war 1 veteran and poet.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands, we throw the torch
Be yours to hold it high; if ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields
Ka mate, ka mate, ka ora, ka ora.
Will I live, will I live, will I die, will I die
This is the ultimate sacrifice.
Abby May, Year 13