The Clipboard, 28 April 2023

April 30, 2023

Lest we forget…

My Dad used to cry once a year and that was on ANZAC Day. He served in the Australian Armed Forces in the Korean War, when he was 18. Six boys from Lithgow, a small town in New South Wales, all mates signed up and went to Korea. Only two of them made it home. My aunties said that when he went to war he was so full of life and just a boy. He came home two and a half years later and there was an emptiness and sadness about him. Every year we would go to the dawn parade in Dunedin. He would wear his medals and his army beret. When we asked him what his medals were for he said, “This one is for making tea, this one is for morning teas, these are all for making my bed and this one is for building the best sand castles.”

The men and women that served would all march down Princess Street to the Octagon to where the wreaths were laid. Our Dad would cry at the same point in the service, every year. When they played the last post he would stamp his foot, stand to attention and salute. Tears would roll down his face. As kids we would all start crying. We didn’t know why but we saw our Dad cry so we cried too. We would say to our Mum, “Why is Dad crying?” She would say, “Because he is thinking about his friends.” We would look at our Mum and say, “Why are you crying Mum?” She would say, “Because, I’m thinking about your Dad.”

When I was little we used to get the clothes pegs and make toy guns out of them and then run around pretending we were at war. One day, my best mate and brother got my Dad’s beret and medals and put these on. My Dad came home, saw us doing this and sent my friend home and me and my brother to bed without any dinner. He yelled at us and took the medals and beret and slammed our bedroom door. I could hear my Mother talking to him. She was saying, “Bill, they are just little boys playing.” About an hour later he came into our room. With our dinner he said, “Boys, I’m sorry. I don’t want you to think war is fun and that it’s pretend. I’m sorry for yelling at you” He picked us both up and gave us the biggest hug and whispered “Only one Denham is allowed to go to war and that was me!”

We had two fabulous ANZAC day services at Coll this week. I was honoured to be amongst the old boys that came to school to attend the services: Major Rupert Randall (Serving Major in the New Zealand Army) from the Class of ’05. Major Steven Bougen (Army Logistics) Private Zach Conche (Army Combat medic who is now training as an Army electrician) Jeremy Seeds (ex Captain- Army Education) and Phil Collet (retired Colonel, Army Signals). At the assembly we noted three old boys currently serving overseas. Captain Tama Wawatai (Head boy and class of ’04) deployed on a UN operation in Syria and Lebanon. Major James Martin (Class of ’02) and Captain Sione Stanley both seconded to the British Army in the UK and Ukraine. Our guest speaker was Colonel Grant Cowley (retired) who is now a relief teacher at Wellington College. He has seen military service throughout the world including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, UK and the USA. Colonel Cowley spoke passionately about what ANZAC day represents and the service given by so many of our old boys. Colonel Cowley told us that 475 of our old boys had been killed in wars over the last 156 years. It was an incredibly sobering statistic as I looked out at our boys in assembly. Many died that were not much older than our boys in the Senior School.

I was very proud of the boys in both assemblies. They appreciated what ANZAC day represents and those old boys that stood before them. Our WC and WGC choir Nga Korimako sang beautifully, the Last Post was played by Hugo Carter, Year 10, and Laifone Kamoto, Year 10, played the bagpipes brilliantly. Thanks also to Tai Renner, our Head Boy, Divyne Shadrock, Zane Bradley and Major Rupert Randall, all of whom played key roles in both assemblies.

The sacrifices of those who went to war and all those that stayed behind are unimaginable. We must always remember their sacrifice. I leave you with a quote from one of our most famous old boys, Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg, Commander of the New Zealand Division. He wrote a letter to the Head Prefect of Wellington College in 1942.

“It is the hope of all of us that your generation will not have to go to war. Throughout the world it will be the duty of your generation and ours who know what war means to do everything in our power to make a repetition of it impossible.”

Receive the light and pass it on.

Glen Denham