Around this time every year, I always find myself reflecting on ANZAC Day and the solemn and heartfelt way in which Kiwis honour soldiers who died for their country. Even 100 years on from the start of World War One, the spirit of ANZAC Day has not been lost. We still stop to pause, remember and be grateful for the young men and women who fought, and in many cases died, far from home.
Today I’d like to share with you a story from one of our nurse educators, Glenys Best. I first learned of the sacrifice made by Glenys’ family last year when we included her story in this blog. Glenys’ grandfather and three of his brothers served in World War One, three for New Zealand and one for Australia. Only Glenys’ grandfather returned. It was a devastating loss, both for the family and for the tight-knit community of Great Barrier Island where they lived.
Over the last year, Glenys has been on a personal journey to find out more about her long-lost relatives. She shares her story here:
I always knew that four Sanderson brothers, one of whom was my grandfather, served in World War One. Three perished over a six month period from October 4 1917 to March 1918. Only my grandfather returned.
With the 100 year centenary of the beginning of World War One this year, I felt the need to find out more about those relatives who had perished on Flanders Fields, ANZAC Ridge and at Passchendaele. How was it that my grandfather returned safely while his three brothers died?
After I shared my story in the CEO Blog last year, I was contacted by a gentleman doing his own research into Great Barrier Island war veterans. This spurred me into action and was the beginning of my journey back in time. My search led me to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Auckland Museum, Archives New Zealand and New Zealand History. As a result I now know that my grandfather, a tunneler serving in France, did not see out the end of the war on the battlefields. In fact, after the third of his brothers died in March 1918, he was recalled to England, where he stayed until the end of the war before returning to New Zealand. The Sanderson family had sacrificed enough.
A few weeks ago I also returned to Great Barrier Island, which I haven’t visited much in 36 years. I stayed with a cousin I’d never met and met other distant cousins, each of whom remembers the sacrifice of their relatives in their own way. In each home hangs a photograph of the three lost brothers. During my visit, I attended this year’s ANZAC Day service which was an incredibly emotional event. My own father served in World War Two and never spoke of his experience. As such, I was never taken to an ANZAC Day service as a child. The loss and the experience of war was simply passed down through generations of my family. But this year I was there, remembering my grandfather and his brothers, as well as others who lost their lives.
Over this last year, I’ve been enriched by asking, searching, seeking and trying to understand the magnitude of sadness and the sacrifices made. I feel a much closer connection to my lost ancestors and though it’s taken several generations, my family is again talking about our relatives and the huge sacrifice they made.
Thanks Glenys for sharing this personal and poignant story. It is a valuable reminder of how devastating the World Wars were for New Zealand, and why it is important to continue remembering and honouring those involved for years to come.