Some Wellingtonians were woken on Armistice Day 2008 by a deep magnitude 4.0 earthquake which struck 30 km east of Seddon at 6:20 a.m. A nearby shallow magnitude 3.1 quake followed eleven minutes later.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is set aside to remember those who served in the First World War and to mark the armistice agreement that brought the conflict to an end.
The 90th Armistice Day was marked at many locations throughout New Zealand today. A large gathering took place at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland, whilst the firing of a vintage cannon at Dunedin’s ceremony provided extra excitement when it triggered fire alarm systems in nearby buildings – causing a noisy turnout of fire appliances.
At the National War Memorial in Wellington, dignitaries gathered for an hour-long commemoration. A vigil guard had been maintained around the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior since 6 a.m., with members of the three armed services changing personnel every 20 minutes.
At 11 a.m. the peace bell struck its sombre tones 11 times. An air force bugler then played the Last Post flawlessly.
Wellington’s feisty wind played havoc with the laying of wreaths but, as soon as the cameras had moved inside the memorial chamber to cover the remainder of the service, stealthy maintenance work was able to keep them in order.
As the dignitaries filed into the memorial, it was a delight to see several old servicemen being helped up the steps to witness the event. As they settled into the compact chamber, representatives of the army, navy and air force carried their colours into the chamber at the bottom of the carillon and surrendered them for the duration, ceremonially collecting them at the end of the proceedings.
Throughout the event, music was provided by the band of the RNZAF and the resonant acoustics of the chamber complemented singing by the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul Choir and Marist priest Fr. Chris Skinner. Dame Kate Harcourt’s rich voice followed the recollections of returned WWI soldiers which were read by local school students.
Meanwhile, outside, the vigil guard was changed at regular intervals with military precision and the smooth running of the programme was a credit to all concerned.
The low cloud that had plagued the capital all morning meant that a planned fly-by of vintage aircraft had to be cancelled. TVNZ covered the event thoroughly, but the comms team had a few technical hitches when loss of signal during the first 10 minutes caused video to freeze.