On Anzac Day, Samoa College student, Aunoa Uele was announced as the winner of the 2016 First World War Centenary Competition organised and funded by the New Zealand High Commission. Aunoa will represent Samoa in September at the Battle of the Somme commemorations in France, joining other winners from the Cook Islands Tonga and Niue. This is her winning entry.
What the sacrifices made by the Samoan and Allied servicemen and women during the First World War mean to me
“True courage is not confined to the soldiers’ will power and commitment on the battlefield; it belongs to the daily conquests of what we recognise as our own personal weaknesses” (Dwight L Moody – North American evangelist of the 19th century, edited by CommonSense)
The quote above simplifies the focus of what my essay sets out to discuss. It aims at identifying what the sacrifices made by the Samoan and Allied servicemen and women during the First World War mean to me.
World War One broke out in 1914 and was expected to last only for a few weeks but it ended four years later in 1918. It is recorded that there were 5509 losses per day and 10 million killed on the battlefields. In particular, “Somme battle was a pivotal event that laid basis for the Allied victory in the First World War”. Victory of this battle was achieved by advancing 12 km into German-held territory. This victory was of great significance as it led the Allied Forces to overall victory in the war.
Although the war is such a negative historical event, the servicemen and women sacrificed a lot. True essence of what this sacrifice means to me are categorised as follows: courage and bravery, perseverance and commitment and unity.
Courage and Bravery. It is certain that all the fellow servicemen and women were indeed very courageous and brave. Evidently in their initial decision to .sacrifice their whole lives to join the service.
They went to war physically and mentally prepared for what to expect, and with a clear understanding of what they were fighting for and what the consequences might be. They had to forsake their families and children; they left their whole lives behind and risked everything.
However this did not in any way discourage these brave men and women from serving what they saw was a good cause to fight for. The actions of these servicemen and women appeals to me because it inspires me as a young teenager still learning about life and what it ought to become.
It teaches young ones like me that bravery and courage are values that we, as growing generations should learn about as well as act out. We need to apply these values to everyday lives where we can be brave and be courageous in serving a good cause.
Perseverance and Commitment. “We were reduced to a miserable condition with deep mud everywhere and no greatcoats or blankets. For night after night ... we hardly slept. Sleep was a matter of bits and pieces amounting to very little. One night, there was a thin cover of ice on a path beside us.
We thought with longing of fires, dry clothes and hot baths. We became unspeakably weary and dreary.” – Sergeant Major Cecil Malthus from Andrew MacDonald’s ‘On my way to Somme’. The above provides us with an insight within the war zones.
Although the servicemen and women who went to war encountered poor, miserable, cold and exhausting conditions, they were determined to reach their goal and succeed. They endured all the hardships they encountered and fought till the very end.
The servicemen and women went out to war wholeheartedly and with so much willpower. With all the odds against them, they managed to persevere and soldiered on. It is fair to say that giving up may have crossed the minds of some if not all, just like many of us when we come to a stumbling block in life.
Of course it would cross our minds to give up but our fellow servicemen and women remained committed to the service they signed up for and persevered and strived to achieve their goal. This has become a valuable lesson for me and also applicable to young ones out there.
When we give up easily in chasing our goals, the sacrifices our fellow servicemen and women remind us that success doesn’t come easily but is achieved through perseverance to endure any pain and hard work through full commitment.
Unity. The formation of the Allied side comprising the British Commonwealth, France, Belgium, Serbia, Italy and other countries joined in unity pulling together all their strength, expertise and manpower and military capabilities.
It was only though this unification that Germany was defeated. And at war, the Allies were unified under one common goal and that was to defeat Germany and reinstate peace. As the saying goes, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.
Therefore to me, it is vital that we, the youth of today, should stand together to work towards the common goal to be great leaders of tomorrow. We shall stand tall in unity to promote peace and prosperity and stand together to defeat tensions and wars.
Only then will we be able to discover our true potential and be empowered to achieve our goals successfully.
As we commemorate 100 years on, the detrimental effects of the great human loss are still very much felt. As one German officer described, ”Somme, the whole history of the world cannot contain a more gruesome word”.
Thus this event is marked as one of the “saddest battles” in history due to the high number of casualties. 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 what they mean to me. It has given me a greater insight into the true essence of such sacrifices and the greater need as a youth of today to ensure that lessons we learn, are a platform to guide the actions we should take to succeed and maintain peace and harmony in the world.
As Moody clearly and fittingly describes it, “True courage is not confined to the soldiers’ will power and commitment on the battlefield; it belongs to the daily conquests of what we recognise as our own personal weaknesses”.
NZHC Winner of the WW1 Centenary Competition