'Roaring chorus' marks centenary of WWI armistice in New Zealand

A wave of cheers and jubilant noise swept across New Zealand Sunday to launch international commemorations marking the centenary of the end of World War I.

The celebration followed two minutes of silence at 11:00 am on November 11, when the armistice was signed.

There was a 100-gun salute on the Wellington waterfront, while nationally people cheered, church bells rang, emergency services sounded their sirens and ship and car horns blared.

“The carillon and roaring chorus has recaptured the wave of spontaneous jubilation and hope which swept New Zealand when news of the Armistice broke,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a service at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

“We think of our commitment as a nation to the ideals of peace, multilateralism and inclusion.

“We will best honour our forebears by continuing to hold fast to these values as we work for the next generation and for our future.”

Thousands of people, many wearing poppies on their chests, turned out at commemorations around the country.

The June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, ignited a conflict that was contemporaneously described as “the war to end all wars”.

More than 100 000 New Zealanders served overseas during World War I  about 10 percent of the populat...

More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas during World War I, about 10 percent of the population at the time

Marty MELVILLE, AFP

More than 70 million military personnel were mobilised and an estimated 10 million lost their lives.

More than 100,000 New Zealanders — about 10 percent of the population at the time — served overseas during the war, and 18,300 were killed.

“No family, no community in New Zealand went untouched by the effects of the war,” Sarah Davies, the director of the World War I centenary programme, told AFP.

“Young people have connected with people who were just like them — young men, young women who faced real hardship and either went overseas or had terrible loss. For people to re-engage with that has been critical.”

In 1915, more than 10,000 New Zealand and Australian servicemen died at Gallipoli on the Turkish peninsula.

Although the campaign failed in its military objectives, it gave rise to the legacy of courage and close friendship that binds the two countries and is regarded as New Zealand’s “coming of age”.