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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

Chapter XXII — Conclusion.

page 390

Chapter XXII.


And so, after those long years heavily freighted with death and suffering, years of changing horizons, of alternating periods of lowering clouds and looming disaster, of clear skies and glowing hope, but always and under every change of fortune keeping its brave and unquenchable spirit aflame, the Regiment had come to the end of its great task.

The Regiment had in those years been made familiar with all the hard and merciless conditions of a war that made unceasing exaction of every ounce of effort and every extreme of sacrifice, and for which every unexplored region of Science had been laid under contribution in all its dark and frightful places in the search for new methods and new agencies of devastation and death. And the results, measured in suffering and death, were such as to make all the previous great wars of the world look mere feeble amateur experiments in the art of killing.

The losses of the Regiment had been continuous and heavy down to the last stages of the war, and its ranks had many times been sadly thinned and weakened; but the new accessions to its diminished strength quickly absorbed the old martial spirit of the Regiment, and so its identity as a hard fighting unit was preserved, and to the last it remained the Infantry Regiment of Otago whose dash and gallantry and contempt of death will remain as one of the proudest memories of our soldiers in the Great War.

The traditions of a regiment, it may be said, live in the deeds of its most daring soldiers; and in the collective spirit of the Otago Regiment will be found something of the individual bravery of such men as Travis, and Brown, and Cockerell, and of many others whose personal heroism was lost to observation in the turmoil and din of battle.

page 391

It is not pretended that the attempt made in this volume to follow closely the varying fortunes of the Regiment during the years of its brilliant service in the Field is equal in comprehensiveness and detail to the vastness and complexities of the subject. No writer of history of such a war, no matter how fully informed or how well equipped for his task, could hope to do more than present an incomplete, but perhaps a suggestive, picture, leaving the rest to the sympathetic imagination of his readers.

The full story of the Waterloo Campaign, the shortest and most decisive in history—it lasted less than five days—has not yet been fully told, though it occupies a space equal perhaps to the whole output of history of all other British wars. What hope is there, then, that the story of the greatest war of all the ages, numerically equal in years to the days of Waterloo, can ever see the light in full and complete historical form. And relatively and in modified form may not the same be said of the history of a fighting force so closely identified with every phase of the Great War as the Otago Regiment.

But the chief purpose of the History will have been served in keeping alive memories that in time will be woven into our national life and become great and appealing traditions, giving strength and dignity and a due sense of their own worth to our people both of to-day and of the future.

To those who suffered and died for their Country posterity must owe an everlasting debt and cherish hallowed memories; for those who fought and suffered and lived for it, there must be no less admiration and gratitude; for the stimulus and inspiration of their lives are not of to-day, but must live for ever.