Anzac Day 2021: New Zealanders once again gather to honour the fallen

A year after Covid cancelled all services, New Zealanders rose to acknowledge its servicemen and women on Anzac Day.

Last year the pandemic and level four lockdown left New Zealanders standing at their letterboxes in a socially distant tribute. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, was joined by her partner and father at the bottom of Wellington’s Premier House driveway, listening to the Last Post silently before returning to the official residence.

This year she attended and spoke at New Zealand’s largest service, at the Auckland War Museum Memorial in Auckland Domain.

Crowds returned to the Auckland War Memorial Museum to mark Anzac Day. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The defence minister, Peeni Henare, headed to a smaller occasion at the Wairaka Marae at Whakatane.

The turnouts are guaranteed to be larger than last year, but didn’t see all defence personnel involved. Around 1,000 members have been drafted to roles within New Zealand’s Covid-19 border regime.

The defence force has made a number of commendations for service in Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Iain Hill, who was chief of staff in the Coalition Task Group headquarters in Iraq last year, has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal.

The Scotland-born serviceman served in Basra with the British army before moving to the New Zealand army a decade ago, returning to the Middle East.

The citation states Hill was “a trusted officer within the Australian and New Zealand coalition headquarters”, directing staff during a missile crisis and rocket attacks.

“Lieutenant Colonel Hill’s achievements are of an extremely high calibre and are indicative of the ethos, traditions and values of the New Zealand army, the New Zealand defence force and the Anzac spirit,” it read.

The same medal has been awarded to Corporal Charles Munns for his role in a rocket attack on Taji military camp in March last year.

Corporal Jessica Healey-Render and Private Maddison Van Sitter both also received a Chief of Defence Force Commendation for the same event.

Munns recalled the attack, when 29 rockets exploded within a one-kilometre square, killing many people, including two American soldiers and a British medic.

“At first you don’t think it’s real because you do so much training but within seconds you realise what is happening,” he said.

Healey-Render’s citation applauded her “medical skills and decision-making”.

“We heard the rockets just after we had finished a step class in the gym. I found my evacuation team and we drove down the road where we soon found our first casualty. This is when I realised the true nature of the situation,” she said.

“I’ll admit it was scary – you never think there will be a day when you are literally running for your life.”



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