Home' Greymouth Star : December 31st 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
One hundred years ago, thousands of
young New Zealanders set sail to other
side of the world to fight a war for king
Ten per cent of the young nation’s
population of one million ser ved
More than 18,000 would never return
home and 40,000 were wounded.
Over the last century their memories
have lived on. Their names have been
etched on stone war memorials in every
town across the country. Family stories
passed down through the generations.
Every Anzac Day, we vow to remember
This year, however, the centenary of
World War One 1914-18 has meant the
heroic deeds, hardships, sacrifice, torment,
and sorrow have been given a long overdue
On August 4 this year, 100 gun shots
echoed over Wellington to mark New
Zealand’s entry into the Great War, or
“the war to end all wars”.
In 1914, Britain’s proclamation of war
from King George was read
out by the country’s Governor
Lord Liverpool to a crowd of
thousands who had gathered at
A century on, politicians,
dignitaries and servicemen
and women lined the steps of
Parliament as the document was
read again by radio broadcaster
It said the king was reassured by
messages of support by dominion
countries over the previous few
“I shall be strengthened in
the discharge of the great
responsibilities which rest upon
me by the confident belief
that in this time of trial my
Empire will stand united, calm,
resolute, trusting in God. ” Lord
Liverpool’s reply to the king was
that New Zealand was prepared
to “make any sacrifice to maintain
her heritage and her birthright”.
The Government ’s ‘New
Zealand WW100’ campaign
kicked off a six-year project to
mark the chronology of events of
the war, and its aftermath.
Exhibitions, parades, concerts, historical
re-enactments, and education tools have
Classrooms are learning about trench
warfare, shell shock, and biplanes.
Remarkable tales include the sad tale
of the war’s first casualty, dashing fighter
aces, bicycle battalions, nurses lost at
sea, courage under fire, war horses, brave
chaplains, heartbreaking letters from the
Western Front, and family tragedies.
The thirst for knowledge from the
general public is unparalleled, according to
The military ser vice files of those soldiers
who ser ved in World War One are now
available on-line for the first time.
Archives New Zealand staff took on
the enormous and vastly complicated
They identified over 141,000 files,
scanned the often crumbling, fragile pages
and then digitised them and published
The files tell stories of how men and
women signed up for the war effort.
It shows their history sheet, providing
pre-war occupations, religious persuasion,
and next of kin details.
Families can now, within a few clicks,
see when their long-lost relative signed
up, where they were posted, if they were
injured, or how they were killed.
The National Library, through the
Alexander Turnbull Library, has also
made a series of official war photographs
Military historian Dr Damien Fenton,
a research fellow at Massey University,
hoped the centenary of World War One is
used as a platform for education not just
It was a “literally a once in 100 years’
opportunity” to focus public attention on
re-examining and expanding knowledge
of the war, New Zealand’s role, and
the subsequent impact it had — and
continues to exert — upon the country,
“My concern is that if we treat the
centenary as a four-year long Anzac Day,
we will rob ourselves of the chance to
really get to grips with the First World
War as a historical event — as opposed
to a metaphor — and gain a better
understanding of what really happened,
why it happened and how it impacted
upon not just New Zealand, nor even the
wider British Commonwealth but the
entire globe,” Dr Fenton said.
“ It was a world war after all, something
we seem to be very good at neglecting
when it comes to the way we have chosen
to remember the conflict in this country
over the last half-century or so.
“Instead we risk simply reinforcing the
same old grab-bag of myths, half-truths
and cliches which actually tell us very
little about the war itself beyond the
universal obser vation that ‘war is hell’.
Which, given that this sentiment would
strike most of us — and our forebears
in 1914 — as blindingly obvious doesn’t
get us very far in understanding how
most of the planet ’s peoples nonetheless
resorted to it between 1914 and 1918
and why they kept on fighting year after
year despite the terrible losses and harsh
realities of the world’s first total war.”
4 - Wednesday, December 31, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
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de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
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reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
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uLetters to the editor
1775 - The British repel an attack by
Continental Army generals Richard
Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec.
Montgomery is killed.
1799 - The D utch East India Company ’s
territories in Indonesia are taken over by the
Dutch Administration in Batavia, now Jakarta.
1857 - Britain’s Q ueen Victoria decides to
make Ottawa the capital of Canada.
1879 - US inventor Thomas A
Edison gives first demonstration
of his electric incandescent light at
Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1961 - Lebanon’s army prevents
coup attempt in Beirut by Syrian
Popular Party. The US Marshall Plan
expires after distributing more than
$12 billion in foreign aid.
1963 - Central African Federation of
Rhodesia and Nyasaland is dissolved.
1974 - Private US citizens are allowed to buy
and own gold for the first time in more than
1978 - Taiwanese diplomats strike their
colours for the final time from the embassy
flagpole in Washington, marking the end of
diplomatic relations with the US.
1988 - India and Pakistan agree not to attack
each others’ nuclear facilities.
1997 - Hong Kong authorities finish the
slaughter of 1.3 million chickens and other
fowl to prevent an outbreak of a deadly strain
of bird flu in humans.
1998 - Eleven European nations usher in the
New Year and the euro.
1999 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin resigns.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Jacques Cartier, French explorer (1491-
1557); Henri Matisse, French artist-sculptor
(1869-1954); Nathan Milstein,
Russian-born violinist (1903-92);
Gottfried August Burger, German
poet (1748-94); Anthony Hopkins,
English actor (1937—); Sarah Miles,
British actress (1941—); Donna
Summer, US singer (1948-2012);
Ben Kingsley, British actor (1943—).
“The past at least is secure.” — Daniel
Webster, American statesman (1782-1862).
“ My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass
from Me; yet not what I want but what You
want.” - - Matthew 26:39
Just before Santa
Claus made his
rounds at Greymouth
Hospital, a bonny
baby boy put in his squawking appearance. He
was one of three West Coast Christmas babies.
Baby Goodman is the son of Mr and Mrs R W
Goodman, of Camerons. The baby’s name may
be Allan, but the proud parents of the 8lb 13oz
boy are still deciding.
Last year’s Christmas arrival at Greymouth
was another boy, Noel Woods. Accompanied
by his parents, he paid a visit to McBrearty
Annexe on Christmas Day this year.
A boy was also born at Westland Hospital on
Friday to Mr and Mrs L Reeves. His name has
not yet been selected.
Stephen, son of Mr and Mrs J Schroeder, was
born at the Inangahua Hospital on Christmas
The largest contingent of West Coast scouts
to attend an overseas jamboree left Greymouth
on the first leg of the journey to Dandenong,
Australia, yesterday. Some 16 West Coast
schoolboys will be away for almost a month.
They will take a short holiday across the
Tasman at the conclusion of the seventh
Australian jamboree on January 8.
Some of the Greymouth scouts pictured at
the railway station were Len McGrane, Allan
Emerson, Robert Thorn, Malcolm Williams,
Douglas Heinz, Keith Baty and Boyd Ashby.
A Railways Department spokesman said this
afternoon that the reason for the momentary
failure of the warning bells and lights on the
Tainui Street crossing yesterday was the rusting
of the rails as the result of weed spraying.
Because of the rust the railcar’s wheels were
insulated and failed to work the warning bells
uFood for thought
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Little time left
he main purpose of year-
end reviews, of course, is
to hold the ads apart. But
they can also ser ve as a kind
of annual check-up on the
political health — and also
on the economic, demographic and even
physical health — of the planet and its
teeming human population.
So imagine that we are a panel of
high-priced medicos reviewing the health
status of our most important client, the
human race. The first thing to note is
that the client is still piling on weight at
an alarming rate — up from two billion
units to seven billion in the past 75 years
— but continues to thrive, for the most
part. Most of the ailments that it worries
about are mere hypochondria. Take, for
example, the widespread concern (at least
in the media and among what Bob Fisk
calls the “think-tank mountebanks”) that
the emergence of the so-called Islamic
State in the no man’s land between Iraq
and Syria will lead to catastrophe. There
will allegedly be a surge in terrorist attacks
around the world, a Sunni-Shia religious
war spanning the entire Middle East,
or even a global religious war between
Muslims and everybody else.
The Sunni fanatics and the Shia fanatics
are far too busy trying to kill each other
to have time to spare for attacking non-
Muslims. (Besides, most Muslims do not
want to attack anybody; they just want
to be left in peace). Q uite a lot of the
slaughter in Iraq and Syria is driven by
religion, but we are still a long way from
a religious conflict that directly involves
the really important States of the Middle
East: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and
Even the anticipated surge in terrorist
attacks outside the region is not likely to
come to pass. The only strategic purpose
for such attacks by any organised group of
Islamist extremists is to gain support and
recruits within their own region. If they
can lure western powers into killing lots of
Muslims in their region, then their cause
will prosper locally.
As it turns out, Islamic State has not
even needed to carry out terrorist attacks
in the west to achieve this goal. Videos
of western hostages being beheaded have
been enough to get the bombing going
again, and western governments are no
more troubled by the sheer pointlessness
of the bombing than they were in the
past. Both sides are playing for the home
audience, and really do not care much
about the impact of their actions on the
The whole “Islamic State” panic is a
tempest in a fairly small teacup. The
casualties are small, and the entire region
matters little economically or strategically
except to its own inhabitants. Even in the
unlikely event that a Sunni-Shia religious
war should engulf the whole of the Middle
East, it would have no more effect on the
rest of the planet than the European wars
of religion four centuries ago had on the
Middle East. That is to say, hardly any.
So in terms of the global system’s health,
the rise of radical Islamism is not a life-
threatening disease. It is a local infection
that will probably have to run its course.
If it really gets bad, some quarantine
measures may be needed, but this is not
Speaking of which, the Ebola outbreak
in Africa seems on the way to being
contained, although it will probably
remain as a low-level chronic problem in
the three west African countries where
it reached epidemic status: Sierra Leone,
Liberia and Guinea. There is a small risk
that Ebola might take root in a densely
populated country whose people travel
widely, like Nigeria or, even worse, India,
but so far, so good.
The other great shock of 2014 was a war
in Europe. The Ukrainian revolution of
last February was a messy and complicated
business, but it need not have ended in
Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and
in a Russian-backed separatist war in
Ukraine’s two easternmost provinces.
We owe that mainly to Russian President
Vladimir Putin’s world-view as a former
agent of the KGB, the Soviet secret police,
which (as the old saying had it) thwarted
10 anti-Soviet plots for every one that
The KGB was full of very clever people
— indeed, it was the most intelligent
and best informed part of the old Soviet
regime, one of the world’s strongholds of
institutionalised stupidity — but it was
also a nest of paranoid fantasists. You may
debate to your heart’s content whether this
was a Russian cultural phenomenon or
an extreme case of the disease that infects
every great-power spy agency, but that is
why Putin reacted the way he did.
Western European governments are
so divided and introspective that they
could not come up with a credible plan
to boil an egg, and they care very little
about the parts of eastern Europe beyond
the European Union’s borders. The only
section of the American population that
sees President Obama’s administration as
capable of hatching a plot is the extreme
right, and they think he is a foreign-born
communist plotting the overthrow of the
Various western politicians showed up
in Kiev to cheer the protesters on, but
these were just the usual suspects taking
advantage of a good photo op. Their real
intended audience, as usual, was back
home. As for Nato, it is another Cold
War institution that has long outlived its
purpose, but it no more wants to bring
Ukraine into the fold than it longs to
recruit Mongolia as a member. Too much
trouble, and no profit whatever.
There was no western plot, but Putin is
driven by the belief that there was. He has
taken Russia into a confrontation with the
west that it cannot win, and the country’s
economy is already crumbling under
the twin strains of coping with western
sanctions and the collapse of the oil price.
He is finding it almost impossible to
back away without losing face, but he has
nothing to gain by continuing the conflict
either. Risk of a new Cold War: minimal.
So far the patient ’s health is looking
pretty good. There is the usual clutter
of minor ailments — a mini-civil war
here (Libya, South Sudan), civil rights
protesters under attack there (Hong Kong,
Missouri) — and there is a significant
possibility that next year will bring
another recession. That is as inevitable as
catching a cold once in a while. But there
has been nothing really out of the ordinary
this year, nothing that sets off alarm bells.
The only big worry the doctors have is
the same one that has bothered them for
the past 25 years: the patient simply will
not stop smoking. Their increasingly grave
warnings are met with empty promises
to cut back or quit entirely, but not right
now, just some time far in the future.
The news flows in endlessly, and some
of it has significant impact on many
people’s lives — a billion people’s lives
when India elects a new prime minister or
China gets an (unelected) new president,
both of which happened this year. But
truly fundamental change is much rarer
than people think (and than the media
encourage them to think). Now that the
threat of large-scale nuclear war has died
down, only one thing qualifies.
Climate change is the spectre at
every feast, the unstoppable rot that
undermines every positive development.
The failure at Copenhagen in 2009
bleeds indistinguishably into the fudge at
Durban in 2011 and on into the feeble
compromise in Lima in 2014, which sets
us up for the bigger disappointment of
Paris in 2015. Even if by some miracle we
get a useful agreement in Paris next year,
nothing will actually be done until 2020.
The patient thinks there is still plenty of
time to quit. There is not.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
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