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Last post first duty

The first public duty Ron Malpass performed as Methodist Church president was the service for New Zealand’s Unknown Warrior at Wellington’s St Paul cathedral on November 11th.

Ron says it was a privilege to take part in service along with leaders from eight other Christian denominations.

“Each of us read two lines of the final blessing. Before that, members of the Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish communities and the Assemblies of God had read prayers from their sacred texts.”

The service was attended by Prime Minister Helen Clark who gave the official address and Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright. Dame Silvia read the last letter written by Lt Colonel William Malone, to his wife and family, on the night before he died at Gallipoli in the attack on Chunuk Bair, August 1915. His remains are among those of many New Zealanders with no known grave. During the service the hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past was sung and Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson gave a reading.

After the service Ron and the other church leaders followed the casket of the Unknown Warrior and the choir out of the cathedral, and they were followed by the Prime Minister and her cabinet.

“Once we were out, Presbyterian moderator Garry Marquand and I walked behind the casket on the slow march across the city to the war memorial. It was a very moving deeply spiritual journey. There was a sense this was an event that meant a lot to all New Zealanders. It was overdue and a pity it could not have happened a few years earlier, when some of our WW1 veterans were still alive.”

“Crowds lined the street and some people joined the procession which was made up mostly of members of the RSA but with people of all ages including some children,” Ron says.

Dame Silvia delivered the eulogy at the burial service at the war memorial, which was led by the defence force’s principal chaplain Julian Wagg .