Memorials remind us of our First World War heroes

A timely piece as we mark ANZAC Day on Wednesday

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Wellington, April 24, 2018

On Anzac Day, New Zealand’s First World War memorials will be at the centre of commemorative events around the country. They are also the focus of the latest campaign from WW100, Monumental.

“New Zealanders went to monumental lengths to remember those who served and died in the First World War,” says Sarah Davies, Director of the WW100 First World War Centenary Programme.

Public Memorials

There are more than 500 public memorials across the country and many more in schools, churches and workplaces. They were created to remember the sacrifice of the 18,000 New Zealand soldiers and nurses who lost their lives, and the many tens of thousands more who served.

“Anzac Day is a timely opportunity to encourage people to linger a little longer at these memorials, to spend a little time getting to know the names etched upon them and discover their stories,” Ms Davies said.

The WW100 team have put together information to help people trace these individuals’ stories, but also the stories behind the memorials themselves.

Interesting insight

Historian Jock Phillips, a contributor to the Monumental campaign and author of ‘To the Memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials, ‘said that these monuments offer an interesting insight into the beliefs and values of New Zealand communities in the years immediately following the war.

There was such a strong desire to find a way to remember those New Zealand soldiers and nurses who died in the war, nearly all of who were buried overseas in Europe and the Middle East.

“Family and friends wanted a sacred place nearby, a kind of surrogate tomb where they could visit and remember their loved ones,” Mr Phillips said.

Community Groups

Community groups were formed throughout the country to realise the memorials.

The form, locations and inscriptions were all the subjects of much discussion as people considered how to adequately acknowledge such a monumental loss.

“When you start looking at the memorials closely, they become fascinating. Almost all of them have something distinctive, it might be the inscription, it might be the way they were sculpted,” Mr Phillips said.

All but one of New Zealand’s First World War memorials were the result of mammoth community fundraising efforts. People gave generously despite the hard times.

“This is arguably the largest act of cultural patronage that this society has ever seen. There have never been so many public works of art as in the memorials after the First World War,” Mr Phillips said.

People can find out more about the soldiers and nurses listed on the nation’s many memorials using Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Online Cenotaph.

Some activities

First World War memorials take many forms:

There are trees planted in honour of old boys and girls at schools in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington.

Many towns have obelisks, statues, arches, gates or stained glass windows.

In a few places natural features were adopted such as Lion Rock in Piha.

There are a few useful memorials, such as Hastings which has a memorial hospital, Auckland a memorial Museum and Kaiparoro a bridge. Useful memorials were not as common as they were following the Second World War where most memorials took the form of halls or sports grounds.

The first memorials were dedicated within three months of the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. The most recent was in the Manukau Memorial Gardens in 2010.

Source: WW100 Programme Office

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Photo Caption and Acknowledgement

An officer winner at the New Zealand Infantry Brigade horse show, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association: New Zealand Official Negatives, World War 1914-1918. Reference: ½-013228-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23242504

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