An ode to Britannia

I am a New Zealander to the core. I believe strongly in my country and in the New Zealand people on the whole. It is why I believe New Zealand should have its own head of state, why at a more appropriate moment, we should eventually change the flag. It is why I believe New Zealand needs to actively pursue an independent foreign policy where New Zealand interests are put first.

However I am very well aware of our British past, the influence it has had on our history and why it is still revered in some quarters today. My Granddad on Dad’s side apparently often spoke fondly of Great Britain, even though he had never been there. Many of the wartime generation who fought and died as much for Britain as for New Zealand feel a strong connection to Great Britain and the Monarchy.

In two World Wars New Zealand stood loyally side by side with Britain, despite being subject to the consequences of some colossal tactical mistakes by desk bound commanders hundreds of kilometres from the front line. New Zealanders fought at sea alongside the British when they took on the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee  in the Battle of the River Plate. New Zealand fighter pilots made one of the biggest contributions of any Commonwealth nation to the Battle of Britain and indeed a New Zealander named Keith Park was in charge of the section patrolled by R.A.F. fighter Group 11 which bore some of the worst Luftwaffe attacks. New Zealand soldiers formed the 2nd New Zealand Division which fought against Erwin Rommel in the desert and later participated in the Italian campaign.

Britain gave us cricket, a game which I love watching on television and occasionally attending a One Day or Test fixture of. It gave us democracy. In the names of mountains, streets, monuments, we see our British heritage coming through. Who would have conquered Mount Everest, split the atom and lifted three Rugby World Cups? Which nation would have been the first to give women the vote and take the strong stand that New Zealand has against nuclear weapons?

I wonder some  days how New Zealand would have turned out if we had been colonized by the French, who landed at Duvauchelle, just outside of Akaroa, with plans for New Zealand to become Nouvelle Zelande. Or what about the Dutch Abel Tasman, who sailed past in 1642, a full 127 years before the British explorer James Cook went past in 1769?

So, when I listen to music from that most British of musical extravaganza’s “Last night of the Proms”, to classics such as Fantasia on British Sea Songs with its duck quacks, Rule Britannia and Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1: “Land of Hope and Glory” with all of its paper streamers, I am not listening to it because suddenly I have become a Monarchist. I am listening to it because it is truly great music and these events are a lot of fun.

So, thank you Britain for what you have done in terms of giving us the means to forge a culture, an identity of our own. Of course I do not condone what you did at Parihaka, or the fact that Churchill decided an obscure peninsula in Turkey had to be invaded to secure the Dardenelles for shipping to Russia at the cost of so many hundreds of thousands of lives. But without these and other events, the New Zealand that would have evolved would be quite different from the one we know.


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