Chaplain Pete Olds is conducting several commemorative services in France and Belgium
24 April 2017
Chaplain Pete Olds has officiated in Anzac Day services in China, Timor and New Caledonia and New Zealand, and now he has added France and Belgium to the list.
Chaplain Olds has travelled to Europe as part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent for the 2017 Anzac Day commemorations on the Western Front.
This is his first trip to Europe and he is honoured to have been selected as part of the contingent. He has a significant role, conducting several commemorative services in France and Belgium.
It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life.
Although this is his first visit to France, Chaplain Olds is no newcomer to travel, having been deployed to Timor Leste in 2007, and Vanuatu in 2015 in response to Cyclone Pam.
A former Rangitoto College student, he joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2006 because he wanted to contribute to the country by serving and to experience new challenges.
His routine duties include providing wellbeing support to NZDF personnel, particularly those on deployments.
“Chaplains engage with personnel across all services and ranks, from new recruits to advice for commanders.”
There are plenty of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of every-day people, at home and overseas, he says.
“You get to work every day with a whole range of very capable and motivated people. It’s hugely rewarding.”
New Zealand services for Anzac Day are held every year in France and Belgium and have been enriched with a participating NZDF contingent for the centenary period of the First World War (2014-2018).
In 1917 the grind of war was becoming apparent to those on the Western Front and to those at home. The thoughts of the war being over quickly had evaporated.
Chaplain Olds has some understanding about the difficulties of service people being away from their loved ones.
“While there can be no comparison between the conditions experienced by those who fought in World War One and those of service people deployed today, I see the stress that being away from loved ones has on people,” he says.
“Not knowing what, and how, your loved ones are doing daily and trying to keep a level of normality about your life can be very difficult.”
Despite those difficulties, Chaplain Olds would recommend service in the NZDF to anyone.
“It’s a challenging, worthwhile and exciting vocation.”
The NZDF contingent has conducted tours to learn about the battles that took place in the region and are visiting several cemeteries to pay respects to the fallen, as well as taking part in the official services including Last Post ceremonies at Menin Gate.
Information about the Anzac Day-related ceremonies and First World War commemorations can be found at WW100.govt.nz/international-commemorations.