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Armistice remembered … A moving service in Amberley drew a large crowd. PHOTO: ROBYN BRISTOW

By Robyn Bristow and Shelley Topp

Hundreds of North Cantabrians stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Sunday to commemorate the silencing of the guns at the end of World War 1.

The Armistice came into effect at 11am, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, in 1918.

Booming artillery fire, donkeys, horses, Spitfires, wartime machinery, Red Cross nurses and white crosses adorned with red poppies in memory of those who lost their lives, were reminders of the reality of war for those at services throughout the Waimakariri, Hurunui and Kaikoura districts.

The war changed the lives of local families and communities forever.

Poppy Tribute … Louise Pickering of Culverden laid a poppy at the foot of a White Cross. dedicated to her great uncle, H E Debenham, who left Culverden to go to war, but did not return.

Around 1000 attended the Hurunui Remembers commemoration in Amberley, where speakers told of the atrocities of WW1, its effects on those who lost loved ones, and its impact on families and the Hurunui communities.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley said 186 members of the Hurunui community lost their lives in the war, and of those who returned, many never fully recovered from their experiences. They had seen sights no human should have to see, he said.

He said tragedies and disaster brought out self reliance, stoicism, sacrifice and positive thinking. This was particularly apt in the Hurunui community as the anniversary of the Waiau quake two years ago approached – an event where the community resilience shone as people pulled together to help with the recovery.

Churches, dignitaries, the Hurunui Youth Council, local schools, and many others attended the service in front of a monument in the Amberley Domain, crafted from fibreboard to replicate the real deal in Amberley’s main street.

Surrounded by white crosses, the roll call of those who lost their lives was called by Hurunui Youth Council members, and a Mustang and Spitfire flypast with Ivan Campbell, Evan Belworthy and Gary Cotterill at the controls of the replicas, flew over the gathering, with the Last Postand Reveille an added sombre touch.

A James Drewery play, Remembrance 18, told of those who served, suffered and gave their lives in service for their country, and the grief their families suffered. And for those who returned it told of the burden of their experiences that they had to bear for the rest of their lives, and how the Soldiers’ Block at Hanmer Springs helped so many in their time of need.

In Rangiora, a commemoration service organised by the local RSA drew a large crowd to the town’s War Memorial Cenotaph.

RSA president Ian Thompson welcomed the gathering, while Rangiora Salvation Army bandmaster and Rangiora RSA secretary Bill Peck, Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers, and Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey spoke.

Mr Ayers cautioned about the dangers of spreading fake news. He said that World War 2, initiated by German dictator Adolf Hitler, began largely on the back of a lie that Jews were behind Germany’s defeat in WW1.

“We need to guard against people in power who promote inaccurate information,” he said, adding that we needed to be constantly vigilant in the search for accuracy.

The Rangiora service included a wreath-laying ceremony and an aerial display.

The huge contribution from horses, donkeys and mules in WW1 was honoured during a Remember the War Horse service at Hayland Farm, Mt Thomas, attended by up to 400 people, along with about 200 horses.

The commemoration included a 10km return ride/walk to the Birch Hill Cemetery to see the only privately owned South Island memorial dedicated to the eighth Regiment of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles.

In all, 10,000 horses left New Zealand to serve. Only four returned.

See more photos in our centre spread in today’s issue (Thursday, November 15) of the North Canterbury News.