New Zealand War Memorial Services Marred by Military Crash

WELLINGTON

Commemorations honouring New Zealand and Australia’s war dead were marred on Sunday when a military helicopter heading to memorial services in Wellington crashed, killing three people.

The Defence Force said the helicopter was part of a formation heading to Wellington to take part in a flypast for ANZAC Day, the most significant day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand, when it crashed in rugged hill country just before dawn.

Across the two countries, tens of thousands turned out for annual dawn services marking the anniversary of the ill-fated landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli in Turkey in World War I.

“I have received news that three members of the Royal New Zealand Airforce have lost their lives in a helicopter crash and that a fourth is seriously injured,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told the service in Gallipoli.

“Their helicopter went down as it was travelling to take part in the commemorations for their fellow servicemen and women,” he told the thousands gathered to remember the bloody campaign.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder that our personnel still face great risks today as they serve their country.”

More than 10,000 New Zealand and Australian servicemen died in the failed eight-month campaign in Gallipoli, and ANZAC Day has become a symbol of their bravery and of a defining period in the two countries’ culture and shared development.

Commemorations in Australia were also marred by an accident, as two elderly ex-servicemen were left in a critical condition when a World War II-era military truck smashed into marchers at a parade in Melbourne.

“Something happened inside the truck which caused it to cannon into the back of the marchers and hit six people,” police Inspector Greg Doueal told Australian news agency AAP.

The truck’s driver, a man who had been sitting in the rear of the vehicle and six marchers were taken to hospital for treatment, with two listed as critical, police said.

In Wellington, where an estimated 3,000 attended the ANZAC ceremony, army chief Major General Rhys Jones said the day was not a celebration.

“ANZAC Day is a time to remember and reflect on the sorrow, loss and sacrifice that is the obligation of nationhood, the cost of liberty and the price of freedom,” he said.

Australians marked ANZAC day at home, in cities around the world, and on the WWI battlefield of Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said ANZAC Day had shaped the nation’s memory. “It shapes deeply how we see the world, 100 years later it shapes still what we do in the world,” he told thousands at a Canberra service.

Australian Trooper Mark Donaldson, who recently received the Victoria Cross for his efforts in Afghanistan, said the ANZAC tradition remained strong despite the loss of veterans from WWI and WWII.

“I think it is growing and growing in strength,” he told reporters in Sydney. “I don’t think it has lost meaning at all.

“We need to continue that tradition and it needs to be the young people that understand the spirit of the ANZAC and for us to be able to continue on and remember those guys that have been before us.”

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