COVID-19 Alert Level 2 played its part in the Conference with the attendees being split across two floors to ensure separation was maintained. The day commenced with Sir Bruce Ferguson, KNZM, OBE, AFC taking us through a journey that encompassed the enormous tragedy of the Gallipoli Campaign, the Somme and finally Ypres. He spoke of the huge numbers of young New Zealanders who made the supreme sacrifice and died and were buried in unmarked graves never to return and set foot on home soil again in New Zealand.
When he was the Chief of Defence Force he was summoned to appear before the Prime Minister of the Day, The Rt Hon Helen Clark and he was tasked with a task not be delegated but to be carried out in person. He was to go to Belgium and select the body of a New Zealand soldier from the many graves there and bring that body back to New Zealand to be reinterred at the National War Memorial in the tomb of the unknown warrior. Sir Bruce provided the assembled group with a blow by blow description of the repatriation and the pomp and ceremony applied to the event on his return.
The ‘journey’ was impassioned and told with such reverence that there was not a dry eye in the house. This task obviously made a huge impact on Sir Bruce and one which he recalls with great clarity. ‘Bob’ as the soldier was aptly named as one of those young New Zealanders that answered the call and paid the supreme sacrifice in order that we can all enjoy the life and country that we now live in.
On completion of the speech, the President of the Royal Federation led a number of valedictories for retiring board members. The Presidents and Registrars meetings were both cancelled and will be called by zoom at some time in the future. The meeting was closed at around 10:00 am with delegates returning to their home provinces. A very successful conference and congratulations to the Wellington Association for a well-run event. We look forward to meeting again in Taranaki in 2022.