This year I had the fortune to travel to Kakanui for a weekend with friends for ANZAC weekend (if time permits I’ll post about that this week before I disconnect for EQC repairs for a month). It was a chance to get out of town and chill in a lovely part of the South Island. So I had a different venue to go to for our ANZAC dawn service. We went into Oamaru for the ceremony, as Kakanui is about 10-15 minutes drive south of Oamaru. Before proceedings started a train went through the road (which was cordoned off for the service). The time was 6.30 and the service started as soon as the train and bells had stopped.
The service was shorter, being a small town, but no less poignant than any of the larger ceremonies I’ve attended. Young and old were there to pay their respects and after the service we wandered to a cafe for a hot drink to warm up, then had a look around both the WWI and WWII memorials once it was light.
It had a special meaning for me, as last year I visited the grave site of my uncle Jim (Pvt J M McKone), in the Faenza War Cemetery in Italy. This year I was in his home town, and despite numerous visits as a child to see my grandparents, I never had visited the WWII Memorial Garden, where his name is listed on the plaque along with about 130 others. I wasn’t emotional like I was in Faenza, but it did seem very special to be in Oamaru for my first ANZAC service since visiting the cemetery. It is good to see the crowds at these services growing – I’ve only been going to services in the last 10 years. I’m still unsure why Dad didn’t take us, perhaps it was too hard for him to remember his older brother in such a public way. It may have been a generational thing – my generation and those younger seem to be driving the return to these services. Possibly Dad lived through the war and didn’t want to make too big a thing of it. I’m not sure, I wish I’d asked him. I think he’d be proud of me though, first in seeking out the grave in Italy, and in keeping on with these services.
Regardless, I’m very proud to remember and honour those that fought for our freedom and democracy – a right that sometimes I feel my generation takes for granted here in little old god zone. “We will remember them”.