Anzac Day was originally intended to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. In more recent years it has evolved to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”.
Among these soldiers were
William Duncan Heenan from Tapanui, Otago in New Zealand. Born in 1898, the son of Denis James and Edith Heenan from Owatata, Southland, he was part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War 1. He died on 21 January, 1918 while serving in Belgium with the 1st Battalion of the Otago Regiment. He is buried in Buttes New British Cemetery at Polygon Wood in Belgium.
Esbert Eric Heenan from Tonga in the Friendly Islands, he served as a private with the motor battallon of the New Zealand Infantry. He died on 24 October 1942, aged 27 in Egypt. He is buried in the war cemetery at El Alamein.
John Joseph Heenan was serving as a Lance Corporal with the Australian Motor Regiment when he died aged 34 in 1942. He is commemorated in the Springvale War Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia.
Arthur Clarence Heenan was captured by Japanese forces while undertaking radio operator duties as part of the Coastwatch Service in the Gilbert Islands. He had volunteered for the assignment despite the isolated nature of the islands and the knowledge they were a key target for Japanese forces.
He sent his last message on 25 September 1942: “Japanese coming. Regards to all.”
With 21 other personnel he was taken to Tarawa Island. An inquiry in 1944 established that he was executed in 1942, aged 22. His remains have never been located. He is commemorated in Bourail New Zealand Memorial, New Caledonia.