[ Sarah Simpson, the great grand-niece of a NZ soldier buried at Be’er Sheva plants a tree in memory of the 246 soldiers.]

The 246 New Zealand ANZAC soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Be’er Sheva 100 years ago today have been remembered in two commemorations in Auckland.

The battle is remembered for its dramatic ANZAC cavalry charges and is today being commemorated in New Zealand and in Israel, where the soldiers are buried at the Commonwealth War Graves in Be’er Sheva.

At Auckland Grammar School this morning an olive tree – a symbol of peace – was planted and a plague laid in memory of those who fought and lost their lives in 1917, at the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine campaign of World War I.

Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O’Connor says two Old Boys, Colin Black and Reginald Filleul, were amongst the New Zealand soldiers who fought at Be’er Sheva.  Filleul was killed during the battle and while Black survived, he was killed days later at the Battle of Ayun Kara.

“These young men epitomised the values of Auckland Grammar:  integrity, excellence, respect, courage, pride, commitment and humility,” he says.

Later in the day, a further 245 trees – representing the remaining New Zealand ANZACs who lost their lives – were planted at Sir Douglas Bader Intermediate School in Mangere. The native trees were donated by the New Zealand Jewish community.

The first tree at Sir Douglas Bader was planted by Sarah Simpson, the great-grandniece of one of the local soldiers who was buried at Be’er Sheva. She was assisted by the Consul for Israel David Robinson.

Principal Scott Symes says the trees will create a much-needed protective fence line for the school. “It is a living reminder and an appropriate way to remember these brave young men.”

New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman says the war forged a permanent bond between New Zealand and Israel.

“Both countries are young democracies which share values such as equality and freedom, and honour and respect their fallen.

“The New Zealand Jewish community felt it was important that they helped create this lasting tribute,” Stephen Goodman says.

For further comment, please contact:

Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O’Connor (09) 623 5422
Sir Douglas Bader Principal Scott Symes (09) 2754332 or 021 027 91751
New Zealand Jewish Council President Stephen Goodman 021 599 549