By John “Dutchy” Visser, Adventure Lodge and Motel
My wife Gillian and I are both ex-service men and women from the New Zealand Army, where we met 44 years ago. We have attended ANZAC Day Dawn Services at Waiouru Camp, Christchurch, Burnham, Palmerston North, Whangarei and Rotorua - not to celebrate the waging or glorifying of war, but to commemorate the sacrifices made for us by those men and women in some of the most terrible of times. Standing at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino in Italy, I once wondered how much more magnificent our nation would now be if they had all come home.
So, naturally I wanted to know how ANZAC Day is observed in National Park Village. I discovered that while commemorations take place in neighbouring communities it had been some time since a service was held in the village.
Because of our business commitments to our guests, it would not have been possible for us to honour ANZAC Day in Waiouru or Taumarunui, so I purchased some dried flower bunches for us to place at the village’s Legion of Frontiersmen War Memorial at dawn.
The Memorial was erected in National Park to honour the Legion of Frontiersmen because this was the highest village in the land. Each of its 9000 stones represent a member of the Legion killed during World War 1.
Somehow Bryce and Marie from Eiven’s Bistro got wind of our plans and asked to meet and discuss how they could get involved. We met the night before ANZAC Day and Marie offered to provide savouries and drinks at Eiven’s after the service, while local George Taituma offered to play the ‘Last Post’ - and they asked me to MC the morning.
On the morning of ANZAC Day, a small crowd of under 20, made up of locals and some of our guests, gathered at the Memorial. I called the parade to attention at 5.58 am and at 06.00am George began to play.
This was followed by a full minute of silence to reflect on the sombre, but magnificent, sacrifice that all our servicemen and women had made and that some had given all. I then spoke of the estimated number of 22 veteran deaths by suicide a day in the US, and the promise a soldier makes when he signs on and takes the oath.
Two of our guests led a rendition of the National Anthem to which we all joined in with gusto.
After a short gathering thanking people for the chance to commemorate together, we retired to Eiven’s and the good food supplied by Marie and Bryce - I took the liberty of supplying a good old bottle of Coruba to go in the coffee!
The discussion was then about the fact that we had pulled this commemoration off with honour, and that we should do it again in future, but put a little more planning into it.
At this week’s National Park Village Business Association meeting, it was suggested that I take responsibility for arranging an ANZAC Day service for the village in the future - and that this old Drill Sergeant might like to lead the parade. And that we should invite the local police, fire brigade, school children and families to what could be a great occasion.
I thank the Business Association for the honour and the community for the privilege.
The Story Behind The Legion Of Frontiersmen War Memorial In National Park Village.
The Legion of Frontiersmen War Memorial stands at the crossroads on the corner of SH4 and SH47 in National Park Village.
It overlooks the mountains of the Tongariro National Park - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
The memorial was erected by the Legion of Frontiersmen from 9000 stones. Each stone represents a member of the Legion from around the world killed during World War 1.
Its inscription reads:
Erected to the memory of the 9000 members of the Legion of Frontiersmen
who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 - 1918
And of those gallant Comrades who fell in freedom's cause in World War II 1939 - 1942.
We Shall Remember Them.
The plants in the gardens next to the Memorial were upgraded in 2016 by the Ruapehu District Council with support from the National Park Community Board. The area surrounding the monument was cleared and the monument painted ahead of the WW1 centenary celebrations in April 2015.
The Legion of Frontiersmen formed in Britain in 1905 with the New Zealand Command established in 1911. More than 1,500 Frontiersmen, serving in a variety of units were killed in action during the Gallipoli campaign, many of which were New Zealanders. Of the seven Victoria Crosses awarded to New Zealanders in World War 1, five were won by Frontiersmen. More than 9,000 members of the Legion from across the British Empire made the ultimate sacrifice during the war. Two Memorials were raised to honour the sacrifice made by the Legion - one memorial in National Park and another at Ashburton in the South Island. Both locations were chosen as being central to the Island upon which the memorials were raised. [SOURCE: Mike Subritzky, Editor and Researcher, New Zealand Command THE LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN - 2009]