Tahu Russell (Nutira whānau) was approached by the RSA to give an ANZAC Day speech (reproduced below) at the ANZAC Memorial in Kaiapoi. Earlier that morning, he presented his speech at the dawn parade. He also gave the speech at the regional RSA speech competition. Later Lieutenant Commander Karl Knowles from the Australian Navy spoke with Tahu, as they discussed his plans to join the Army to undertake officer training.

The Day Is Upon Us – D Day
“As the sun struggles to rise, as we do from our beds this cold morning, we stand here shoulder to shoulder, facing what memories lay ahead, silence falls upon us and soon breaks as the final post plays.

Because today is not only the 25 of April 2016, it’s a day we remember, ANZAC Day, a day brave families – not by choice, let their loved ones see the world they were promised, they set out for a war the world was never ready for. They left their warm beds, beautiful homes and loving families. For some, they had just started to fight for their country and the future we now call today. As we breathe in the cold air, they were treated to warm weather, far from the normal New Zealand. As we marched up the street, they marched upon the beaches of foreign sands and soil. They laid the pathway we take using the bullets they fired, the lives they took and the many lives they gave in the battles they fought.

At times like these, as young boys and girls, we are always told to remember but never told what. We never questioned, tilted our heads or screwed our noses. We bowed our heads when others did, we crossed our hands like others did and tried our hardest to remember.

But came up with nothing. As we grow older like the kids of the soldiers who fought and their grandkids and so on…we soon learn what it all means. We remember the name Gallipoli, what soldiers are and what sacrifices they made. Approximately 8,000 sacrifices were made during Gallipoli, amongst those 2,800 were dead. Battle of Messines approximately 3,700 more sacrifices, 700 were dead.

These brave men signed up for the good of their country, to protect brothers and sisters without knowing their names and they added to great success but with a great sacrifice, they created a bond through blood and saw what no man nor women should see and with that, a brotherhood was sealed.

These are the ordinary heroes who to most will remain faceless, a name to a plaque, another place in the family tree. But they are much more than that. Have any of you sat down with the men before you – fathers, grandfathers, great-uncles and asked them of the stories they know of the men who served, did you not ask as a kid with a beaming smile, “Grandad, did you fight in the war?”

And without a second passing, Grandad froze, fists tightened as he re-gathered the thoughts of war. As he looked down to you, did you look close enough into his eyes, glassy and welling with tears. In that moment, it was like an old drive-in movie theatre through his eyes. I could see men storming trenches, see dirt jump from the earth like it was alive from every shot fired and explosives going off. Men running through the trenches, rifles on their backs and blood and dirt on their faces. Then my granddad opened his mouth bringing me back to reality.

He points to a picture, greyed and worn, it showed a man in uniform, clean shaven, sparkling eyes and young. He tells me that he was a soldier, a great man, friend and brother. He fought when we asked for soldiers because like many of us, he wanted to see the world but never knew he would not see his home again.

This man was Tahu Nutira, Lance Corporal, 28th Māori Battalion, 806927. A man who I proudly share the name with. He was my great-uncle from Little River. For those who don’t know, that’s the little town halfway to Akaroa. He lied about his age just so he could serve. Date of death 3 March 1945, aged only 21. He is buried in the Faenza Commonwealth Cemetery in Italy. He is my blood, my namesake and my ANZAC hero.

No longer the picture above the fireplace, not only a man staring back at a young kid eating cheerios. He is a warrior, who carved his legend into the land of Aotearoa. Now at nightfall, the crowds will go home back to their families. Continuing with life with no change.

Some of us bow our heads once more, we breathe a little heavier, we stand a little taller and we battle with our emotions because today is our proudest day to be a kiwi and we will remember them…We will remember them.”
Nā Tahu Russell.

Left to right: Sharon Russell (Mum), Tahu Russell, Lieutenant Commander Karl Knowles (Australian Navy).

Left to right: Sharon Russell (Mum), Tahu Russell, Lieutenant Commander Karl Knowles (Australian Navy).