Armistice Day a very special one

Wednesday November 14, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Lined up for a photo after Sunday’s commemoration are: (from left) Nga Poua, Inspector John Strickland, Akaiti Puna, prime minister Henry Puna, NZ High Commissioner Peter Marshall and his wife Pamela, Police Commissioner Maara Tetava, Lieutenant Commander Kerry Driver and Chief Petty Officer Andrew Orr. 18111178 Lined up for a photo after Sunday’s commemoration are: (from left) Nga Poua, Inspector John Strickland, Akaiti Puna, prime minister Henry Puna, NZ High Commissioner Peter Marshall and his wife Pamela, Police Commissioner Maara Tetava, Lieutenant Commander Kerry Driver and Chief Petty Officer Andrew Orr. 18111178

The Cook Islands celebrated a hugely significant historical event on Sunday, when a commemoration at the Cenotaph marked 100 years since the signing of the Armistice, which ended World War One.

A good-sized crowd braved the hot sun to attend the ceremony, which was attended by a line-up of returned servicemen and their representatives. VIP guests included prime minister Henry Puna and his wife Akaiti, New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall and his wife Pamela, Cook Islands Police Commissioner Maara Tetava, Inspector John Wichman and traditional leaders.

Opening the commemoration with a prayer was Ngatamariki Poua of the Cook Islands Police Service.

The guest speaker was Royal New Zealand Navy maritime surveillance advisor to the Cook Islands, Lieutenant Commander Kerry Driver, who paid homage to the sacrifices made by the 500 Cook Islands soldiers who served in various theatres of the war, including France and Egypt.

The Cook Islands contribution to the war effort was particularly significant given the small size of the country.

Later during the moving ceremony, Paula Paniani read out the names of soldiers who had given their lives for their country, and wreaths were laid in memory of all those who served.

Earlier in the day, bagpipe player Andrew Orange evoked the spirit of the cessation of hostilities by playing the Lament among the headstones at the cemetery at Nikao where some of the World War One veterans are buried.

Armistice Day is traditionally celebrated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marks the end of four years of war with the signing of an Armistice between the Allied Powers and Germany on November 11, 1918. The fighting officially ceased at 11am.

At the time there were around 58,000 New Zealand troops serving overseas, among them hundreds of Cook Islanders.  Some of these men had been in action as recently as the week before the Armistice, liberating the walled French town of Le Quesnoy on November 4. In late December New Zealand troops arrived in Cologne to form part of the Allied occupation force in Germany, but most were sent home between January and March 1919.

On the morning of November 12, when news of the Armistice was announced in New Zealand, people celebrated enthusiastically in cities and towns across the country: bells rang, sirens sounded and children banged on kerosene tin drums. Communities came together, speeches were made and songs sung. More organised celebrations followed later in the day. Bunting went up and torchlight processions, fireworks and bonfires lit up the night in many centres.

Armistice Day was formally inaugurated throughout the Commonwealth on November 11, 1919, when King George V asked that all British subjects observe two minutes’ silence to remember the fallen.

Although New Zealanders continued to mark Armistice Day every year, as a commemorative event it was gradually overshadowed by Anzac Day. After the Second World War the Dominions, including New Zealand, decided to change its name to Remembrance Day and observe it on the Sunday preceding the 11th (later moved to the second Sunday in November).

Since the 75th anniversary in 1993, Armistice Day has been marked throughout New Zealand with services at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at local war memorials.

More photos, pages 8 and 9.

                - CS/NZDF

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