As well as the official Anzac Service at Browns Bay on 25th April, at least two informal citizen initiated Anzac Day commemorations took place on North Shore. Due to the security alert status put in place following the mosque massacres in Christchurch and acting on Police advice, Auckland Council decided to cancel Anzac services at several North Shore venues.
Although no formal services were scheduled to take place at other sites, several hundred North Shore residents showed their commitment to honouring local servicemen and women who fought in World War One, World War Two and subsequent wars by following the long-standing tradition of gathering at local War Memorials on the morning of Anzac Day.
More than a hundred men, women and children gathered at the site of the Takapuna War Memorial outside the Auckland Council office on The Strand. George Wood, Chairman of the Devonport Takapuna Community Board and Board members Jan O’Connor and Jen McKenzie led the singing of both the Australian and New Zealand National Anthems and local celebrant Barrie Mason recited the Ode of Remembrance. A bugler played the Last Post and Reveille
The Takapuna Scout group marched to the War Memorial and one of the members laid a wreath and another repeated the Ode. Anzac Day is an important one in the Scouts’ calendar when young members can honour their forebears, participate and learn about civic traditions.
At the Takapuna gathering, wreaths were laid from the Community Board, the Takapuna Beach Business Association, Maggie Barry MP for North Shore and Takapuna Scout group. As well, many who attended “planted” poppies in sand trays in front of the memorial.
In Devonport several hundred people assembled beside the Untidy Soldier Memorial. Among those attending were Community Board members, Mike Cohen and Grant Gillon and Judge Denese Henare.
Bayswater resident and veteran, Chris Mullane, led a community tribute which included bugler Bill Rimmer playing The Last Post and laying of wreaths by several of those attending. Tayla Woolly, who is this year’s North Shore Youth MP, laid a wreath on behalf of local MP Maggie Barry.
Takapuna resident and businessman Gary Monk who attended the Takapuna service with three generations of family said it was important to him to role model paying respects and laying a wreath to his grandchildren in the hope they will continue the tradition with future generations.
Several of those attending expressed disappointment that the official services had not gone ahead and that they hoped every North Shore centre would return to having a local service next year.
By attending informal neighbourhood initiated gatherings at local war memorials, hundreds North Shore residents sent a clear message to Auckland Council. North Shore people want to remember our local servicemen and women at local war memorials and not at large amalgamated services.
Chris Mullane provided this summary from Devonport for Channel Magazine…
In the wake of the shooting tragedies at two Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019, local authorities, concerned about reprisals, cancelled many of the traditional Anzac Day ceremonies. Curiously however they didn’t cancel most other public events whether indoors or outdoors where people attended in large numbers - sporting fixtures, concerts, etc. Most notably they didn’t cancel any Easter ceremonies or events held in Christian churches or in public areas 19-22 April which arguably were more likely targets for reprisals.
In Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore where the community has a long history of rebelling against being told what to do, people rejected official advice and decided to hold a ‘rebel’ ceremony at their War Memorial which had been paid for by their forebears and unveiled 95 years earlier. At 10am on Anzac Day 25 April 2019 several hundred Devonport residents of all ages gathered for a commemoration variously referred to as the unofficial/alternative/informal/rebel/fringe/Pop-up Devonport Community Ceremony.
Last Post was played, the Ode was recited, a piper played a lament and then Reveille concluded the formalities. Wreaths and other tributes were laid informally and the National Anthem was sung in an impromptu performance in Te Reo Maori and in English. After this, veterans and service people attending formed up behind two Venturer Scouts carrying the flags of New Zealand and Australia and marched up the main street (Victoria Road). The informal parade aptly ended at the local pub The Patriot directly opposite the Devonport RSA which was hosting a small indoor ceremony attended by only a few.
Later, when discussing the unofficial ceremony one Devonport citizen of 96 years whose family has history of military service over several generations was heard to comment, “Our Devonport ancestors would have expected nothing less!”
Devonport residents Roger Brittenden and Simon Gundry played a lead role in initiating the community commemoration.