Aunoa, Tamarua, Sariah and Anna Jane will be attending the 100th Anniversary of New Zealand Involvement in the Somme, alongside the Shared Histories Young Ambassadors 2016. The event, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will take place in Longueval on September 15, and the two groups will stay together for a few days in the Arras area.
The opportunity to travel to the Somme is their prize for winning their country’s WW100 speech or essay competition.
Aunoa Uele from Samoa College, Tamarua Marsters from Tereora College in the Cook Islands, Sariah Magaoa from Niue High School, and Anna Jane Vea from Tonga High School all came first place for their speech or essay, which explored what the service and sacrifice of their troops in the First World War means for them or their country today.
Aunoa Uele described how the great human loss of the Somme is still felt today:
“It is certain that time will not heal all the broken hearts of the families of fallen servicemen and women. However, this essay has allowed me to evaluate their sacrifices and… has given me a great insight of the true essence of such sacrifices and the greater need as a youth of today to ensure that lessons we learn is a platform to guide the actions we should take to succeed and maintain peace and harmony in this world.”
She was over the moon on hearing that she had won and would be representing Samoa at the Somme commemorations.
Tamarua Marsters spoke of his great, great granduncle, one of the few to return from the war, and how he and other soldiers were welcomed back with tears of joy and celebration:
“Despite everything 500 Cook Islands men, stood on the borders to shield us, to protect and preserve life in our small nation, they stood there to represent the peace that was being fought for! Because it was in their nature as humans to do so. “But let’s face it we will never truly understand their sacrifices, but remember that sacrifices were made. They gave up something valuable for the sake of other considerations and in this case, us. It’s selfless but it’s what makes them heroes… I have taken the names of each and every one of these brave soldiers and have engraved them onto my heart, that’s how much their sacrifices means to me.”
Tamarua is excited to be going to see first-hand where his country-men served and to represent his country at the Battle of the Somme commemorations. It’s the farthest he has travelled, and some of his friends and family members who have some knowledge of the Battle of the Somme have been explaining the significance of the commemoration.
Sariah Magaoa’s speech was described as “out of the box” by the three judges, hitting the right note with a blend of history and a modernist view of what Niuean soldiers actually died for.
“We gather (for Anzac commemorations) to commemorate, remember, respect and honour our men who sacrificed their lives during the time of conflict and crisis, World War 1. Anzac day is not just a date or a public holiday. It is a spirit in which we unite together as one and place ourselves in their presence, reflecting on their hardships, courage, discipline and sacrifice. Our ancestors had the courage and the strength to fight for our nation but most of all they had the ability to battle their fears, the fear of never returning back home without any guarantee that all would be saved.”
Sariah is very excited about the opportunity to attend the Somme commemorations as are her parents, who are very proud of what she has achieved.
Tongan winner, Anna Jane Vea described how she has become more grateful having learnt about the Tongan soldiers who served in the First World War:
“I acknowledge that I still reap the fruits of their labour which is evident in the independence my country continues to maintain, and the freedom and access I hold to a good education, prospective career; freedom to choose to have a family of my own and so much more... Should I ever walk past the Tonga War Memorial in Nuku’alofa, I will walk a little taller, more proud of what they have achieved for my country and what my country has achieved for the world. Their sacrifice does not just mean something to me, but to all of us, and it shall continue to do so in generations to come.”
Pacific troops served with Māori in the Pioneer Battalion in France from 1916.
The aim of the speech competition was to help preserve the WW100 legacy in the Pacific region, while increasing awareness, particularly amongst young people, of what the Pacific contribution to the war effort means for Pacific countries and their sense of identity today.
The competition also provided an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing relationship between New Zealand and Pacific countries.
The competition was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of the WW100 First World War centenary programme.