Anzac Day: Parade leader remembers his mates

POIGNANT: Bill Mitchell, 104, will lead the Anzac Day parade in a World War 2 Jeep. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

Bill Mitchell imagines the 3200 inscribed white crosses that line Cranmer Square as small bodies of Cantabrians killed in World War 1.

The 104-year-old will lead the Anzac Day march in a Jeep on April 25, to remember those who lost their lives.

As part of the commemorations, 3200 crosses were laid out on Tuesday, which represent the men and women who died in the first three years of the war.

They are part of the four-year-long Regional Fields of Remembrance Project, where the number of crosses placed there each year correlates to the number of those killed at that point in the war.

Mr Mitchell lost an uncle in World War 1, and he served in the Air Force as a ground engineer in the Pacific during World War 2.

He said during both wars, “life was cheap”. He lost many “mates” while he served in World War 2, and afterwards.

Next year, more crosses will be laid out on the square, as it will represent the final year of the Great War.

A special ceremony will be held in Auckland on Armistice Day, where every cross in the country will all be placed on display to mark the end of the war.

Christchurch RSA president Pete Dawson said the crosses were a poignant reminder of how many men and women were killed.

“New Zealand had a population of one million people in 1915 and of that, 10 per cent went to fight in World War 1. Of that 10 per cent, 18 per cent did not return home.”

Anzac Day dawn service MC Paul O’Connor MBE, said the crosses showed the scale of what really happened during World War 1, and in each year it went on for.

The Dawn Service will be held at Cranmer Square on April 25 from 6am.

Lieutenant Colonel Sir Walter Hugh Malcolm Ross GCVO OBE DL will be a special guest at the service.

He is the Lord Prior – the third most senior individual within the Order of St John, under the Sovereign Head the Queen, and the Grand Prior.

Each year, more than 15,000 people attended the service.