His Majesty King Tupou VI has honoured Australia and New Zealand’s war dead at a dawn service in Nuku’alofa this morning.
The king attended the Anzac Day service at the Pangai Lahi cenotaph, organised by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions.
Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva was also in attendance including Members of Parliament, Ministers of the Crown, officers from the Australian and New Zealand armed forces, foreign diplomats and some members of the public.
A statement from the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga said: “On ANZAC day, we remember all Australian and New Zealand veterans of all conflicts. We acknowledge the sacrifice of all those who have died in conflict, and the contribution of all those who have served.”
Just before dawn on this day in 1915, Australian and New Zealand troops landed under fire on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey with a large number of casualties. It was then, and in the battles that followed, that the Australian and New Zealand Army Coprs – the ANZAC – tradition was formed, based on courage, bravery, compassion and comradery.
Shortly after the Gallipoli campaign, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force began to seek Polynesian volunteers from across the South Pacific. These volunteers served mainly in Māori units. In this way, soldiers recruited from the Kingdom of Tonga joined the fraternity of the ANZACs and service in Western Europe and Palestine.
All of our countries were relatively small players in these great clashes of nations. As small countries, the sacrifice of life and limb was keenly felt at home. This was true whether home was Tonga, New Zealand or Australia. All around New Zealand and Australia and across the world, services like this one are being held to commemorate ANZAC Day.
“We will remember them.”
At the New Zealand commemorations today, Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Grant Robertson said: “It was on the Western Front where New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life. More than 12,000 New Zealanders died in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1919.