Remembering the forgotten in Te Puke

There will be a rock, a very big rock, there will be a donkey and it will rain blood red poppies.

Te Puke RSA president Colin Peake and Lucy Winchers, 9, with Abe the donkey. Photo by Tracy Hardy.

And there’ll also be painful memories of young local men dying in appalling circumstances in far-flung battlefields. This is how Te Puke and Maketu ‘will remember them’ on Anzac Day.

The rock is new and special. Three metres high and weighing seven tonnes, it stands sentinel at the Maketu Reserve. It bears a simple plaque.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.”

These, of course, are Lawrence Binyon’s immortal words about mortal men.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

And at 5.45am on this Anzac Day, before the sun eases up over the estuary, the community of Maketu will gather for the blessing of the rock.

Why a rock? “It’s simply what locals thought appropriate for a memorial,” says Maketu Community Board chairman Shane Beach. And the rock will be flanked by a couple of flag posts.

Could it also be a symbolic representation of craggy Gallipoli in Maketu? “Perhaps it could be,” says Shane.

“At 6am we’ll march to the Whakaue Kaipapa Marae for the memorial service at 6.30am. And at 7.30am there’ll be a plane drop of poppies. It will be a special time.”

Memories, stories, thoughts will be traded over breakfast at the marae.

A couple of hours later at 10am and 14km away a donkey will plod up Jellico St, the main thoroughfare of Te Puke. Eight million donkeys and horses died in World War I.

The donkey in the parade could symbolically be ‘Simpson’s donkey’ – the one featured in one of the most recognised wartime paintings.

Locals are expected to be cheek by jowl along the sidewalk on Jellicoe St as 100 marchers including 50 Returned Servicemen walk silently and respectfully from the Post Office to the Memorial Hall for the Anzac service at 10.30am. Among them, jeeps and staff cars from bygone military campaigns.

Along the way two Harvards, the rowdy old military training aircraft, will make a couple of pass overs.

There are some things that never change and should not change – like the laying of the wreath straight after the service and ‘The Last Post’, the bugle call which signifies a soldier has gone to his final resting place.

And as in Maketu, the Te Puke contingent will retreat to the RSA for stories, camaraderie and probably a couple of beers.

That’s how the Western Bay of Plenty will remember them on Saturday, April 25, the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.


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