Visiting Wellington last week I took the opportunity to visit Te Papa – Museum of New Zealand to visit their Gallipoli exhibition. The exhibit was created by Weta Workshop, the same team who bought the movies from the The Lord of the Rings series to the big screen. This time, they turned their hand to these incredible larger than life exhibits which bought some of the individual stories of World War 1 to Te Papa.
For each of the huge figures, which were about 2.5 times larger than the average person, any second you expected them to move. They looked so real, you could see the sweat on their brow, the dripping wounds, the hair on their arms and the tears on their eyes.
In each room you could hear the words spoken from a diary or letters home, simultaneously displayed on the wall, of their individual experiences at Gallipoli.
As you moved through the exhibit and timeline of the disastrous 8 months at Gallipoli, where 2,779 Kiwi’s died, you learnt more about some of these ordinary individuals, and their experiences of this hell on earth.
The heat, the sickness, the stench of death and the bitter cold.
Interactive maps, dioramas and photographs combined with displays of weapon and uniforms gave you more of an understanding of the hardships that these troops suffered through.
100 years ago, times were different. There was reluctance initially to allow “natives” to fight by Britain’s leaders who saw World War 1 as a “white man’s war”. They didn’t wish to fight alongside Maori and other ethnic peoples. In New Zealand, Maori members of parliament campaigned for a Maori contingent, ready to ‘serve King and country’.
Once approved, many Maori signed up, but some tribal leaders discouraged their men from enlisting, as they still felt they had been wronged by the British Crown a mere 50 years earlier. In July of 1915, the Maori contingent were permitted to serve.
The 3 men shown in the following videos of the Maori contingent Machine-Gun section were Private Rikihana Carkeek aged 25, Corporal Friday Hawkins aged 23 and Australian born Private Colin Warden aged 25. On the night of August 7th, the 16-man team went up the ridge just below Chunuk Bair, joining the other machine-gun teams. The following day they came under intense fire but kept their guns going no matter what. More than half were killed or wounded that day.
As the big push comes on the timeline through the exhibit, you enter the trenches. Its dark, its vibrating with the gun fire and explosions, two screens show troops in the tunnel as you walk through.
As you move your way through the exhibits, you learn more of the various people highlighted in this display and their fates. If they were “lucky” (I’m not sure that lucky seems quite the right word) enough to survive Gallipoli, many went on to die on the Western Front.
By the October, the heat of summer had gone and supplies were held up due to storms. In November came the snow and those who had cut up their uniforms, that were far too hot in summer, now were literally freezing. Towards the end of November it was decided to withdraw, so over the next few weeks troops were secretly removed from Gallipoli, unbeknownst to the Turks.
The last figure in the exhibit is this soldier. I didn’t get his name, by this point I was struggling to see through my tears. You could take a paper poppy and write a name or a thought on it and place it by this soldier.
And the final step, a bowl of water, a Maori custom to cleanse yourself by sprinkling water on your body. This is customary after being in the presence of the deceased.So the exhibit runs for the next 4 years. Its free entry to Te Papa and well worth a visit if you can make it to Wellington.
There is no glory in war.
Lest we forget.
Until reading your post this evening, I had not realized the horrific losses suffered by the New Zealand troops at Gallipoli. Too often, perhaps, their numbers are included with that of the Australian troops which reduces the percentage overall for ANZAC troops but hides the incredible losses suffered by the New Zealand troops. How anyone can visit such an exhibit and not find a bit of dust in their eye or a tightness in their chest is beyond my understanding.
The lost of life was horrific! Nearly 10% of the entire NZ population served during WW1. WW2 didn’t have such a loss of life for NZ, but its hardly surprising that we no longer actively participate in war zones, except as peace keepers.
It was a very powerful and emotive exhibition.
We must never forget.
Thank You for this fine sharing.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Lest we forget.
Do you mind if I reblog this. I sometimes feel that we, in Australia, have taken ANZAC day for our own and forget all the others – especially you Kiwis.
Please do! I would be delighted if you shared it with your readers.
Reblogged this on Cryptic Garland click here and commented:
I know that some of you have seen this because you follow the blog as well as mine, but many of you wont.
I feel that we in Australia, sometimes assume that Gallipoli was a war between Turkey and Australia and although I did mention the huge amount played by the British and the French I want to especially mention the Kiwis who are the NZ component of ANZAC.
A very powerful and moving post. Thank you Sock Mistress and of course John for bringing it to my attention.
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
[…] already blogged about visiting Te Papa – Museum of New Zealand and visiting their Gallipoli exhibition, but I thought I should share some of the other things I […]
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I really must get to see this exhibition – the queues have defeated me so far. I have to disagree with their assessment of our percentage of casualties at Gallipoli. The number is wrong, because it relies on the usual figure given for the total numbers of Kiwis who fought there, which was never officially tallied and which understates them radically. In reality our casualty levels were similar to those of the Australians, about 47-53 percent. There isn’t space here to go into it but it’s something I need to check out further. In my own work on the subject I’ve only gone as far as noting that the number was incorrect – not trying to find out what it actually was.
Of course this isn’t to understate the human disaster that followed the campaign – one wrung out in the diaries, letters, telegrams and notes I’ve read as part of my researches. It was a true human tragedy for New Zealand.
It was horrific, regardless of the casualties 😦