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Northland sailor finally gets to Gallipoli to pay respects

Chief Petty Officer David Tapene has been serving with the Royal New Zealand Navy for nearly a quarter of a century and is now at the Gallipoli Peninsula in Türkiye to pay his respects to those who served there during the 1915 battle.

22 April, 2024

Chief Petty Officer Tapene, from Hikurangi, north of Whangārei, enlisted in 2001. He specialised in communications and has since deployed throughout Asia, Hawaii, the Gulf of Arabia and Australia.

This week he is part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent in Türkiye taking part in the commemoration services for the Gallipoli campaign.

“I was fortunate to be picked as a kairākau - the holder of the ceremonial rākau (staff) - and as a kaihaka as well, or a performer.”

He was not aware of any immediate family ties to Gallipoli, but said family on the East Coast and Northland may have served there.

Chief Petty Officer Tapene said it was important for him to attend the Gallipoli commemorations, because the generation of servicemen who landed at Gallipoli put Kiwis and Aotearoa on the map.

“These guys put their lives straight on the line. Out of respect for that you have got to go and give them a thank you, a haka of thanks.”

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Chief Petty Officer David Tapene has been performing ceremonial roles at various sites on the Gallipoli Peninsula ahead of this year’s Anzac Day commemorations in Türkiye

Most of the 40-strong NZDF contingent arrived in Türkiye about a week before the 25 April anniversary to acclimatise and rehearse before various commemorative events.

Battlefield tours were part of the programme so that members could not only learn more about their predecessors but, to a certain degree, follow in their footsteps.

“It’s another level. This terrain is unreal and to actually walk it seems special. We are very lucky to be here.”

The contingent visited the site of the Maori Pah, which was rededicated last year. The 477-strong Māori contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was mostly based there during the Gallipoli campaign.

Now, more than 100 years after the ill-fated campaign, the NZDF’s Māori Cultural Group has sung an uplifting song at the solemn site.

“We could perform a haka, but I thought we’d sing a song to uplift the wairua (spirit) and get them standing up too,” Chief Petty Officer Tapene said.