The New Zealand Opera School chapel service, 11th January 2015 in the Wanganui Collegiate School Chapel.
(written & delivered by Donald Trott)
A Service of Commemoration on the First World War.
With the event, on the 28th June 1914, nobody would have, could have, imagined that the assassination in Sarajevo of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie would have been the catalyst to bring about a devastating and shocking World War that took the lives of millions of servicemen and civilians and created misery in every country host to its awfulness.
As communities here in this far away British colony of little more than one million people slowly heard of developments on the other side of the world, none could have had any notion of the horrors that awaited sons and husbands as they in their thousands answered the call.
And from every city and town, village and countryside they went. Duty, excitement, travel, comradeship were some of the attractions that were in the minds of all who went to serve but with, I am sure, a certain suppressed fear of the unknown terrors they were shortly to meet.
This historic chapel contains the names of hundreds of boys and masters who left our shores to fight in a war that I suspect they knew little about and never returned.
It is hard to image the intense grief felt throughout the New Zealand communities as news filtered through of the casualties in far flung fields and the dread of receiving a telegram delivered to the door
For those from this School, their memorial is recorded in this chapel and its beautiful pipe organ is dedicated to their memory and their names are engraved and remembered here as long as this place remains.
This is but one memorial of many in towns, cities and villages, honouring those who made a supreme sacrifice and who in the words of Lawrence Binyon in his poem ‘For the Fallen’ so longingly puts it:
‘They went with songs to the battle; they were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, they fell with their faces to the foe’.
‘They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.’
Thus, through our music and readings this morning we can bear in our hearts and minds a great sacrifice that was made one hundred years ago by so many and pray that the world may never see the like again.