25 April 2014

Anzac Day 2014

For those who live outside New Zealand and Australia, 25 April is Anzac Day, the day we remember and honour all those who have served in our armed forces, in particular those brave men and women who lost their lives in the service of their country. 

I have memories of cold, often rainy days from my childhood and teenage years, when I joined my parents to watch the Dawn Service, and, when I was a Girl Guide, we joined the march with soldiers, old and young, to the local cenotaph to join in the commemorations. At both primary and high schools, we always had a memorial service and I remember, as head prefect, having to recite to a full assembly those poignant words from the Ode of Remembrance:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

In 2008, I was privileged to attend the Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli, in Turkey – you can read more about that in an earlier blog

This year, for the first time, I attended the Anzac Day service at Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland Domain. As expected, it was a very moving event but what struck me in particular was the setting, in front of what must surely be New Zealand's biggest war memorial.

This War Memorial Museum, opened in November 1929, is a living, functioning memorial to all the men and women from the greater Auckland region who have lost their lives in a military conflict. According to an article in the New Zealand Herald of 11 October 1920, the building’s purpose was to ‘preserve relics of the conflict … establish a permanent record of effort and achievement by the Dominion’s youth … treasure the memories of fallen soldiers, and … preserve for future generations the inspiration of the war’s heroism and self-sacrifice.’

The design of the Museum Cenotaph is a direct replica of the Cenotaph in Whitehall, in London.

A local firm of architects, Grierson, Aimer and Draffin, designed the Museum with a fa├žade of Doric columns that resemble the Parthenon in Athens, and a small hillock was removed from in front of the building, so the Museum could be seen from the sea, just like the temples the returning servicemen had seen on the shores of the Mediterranean countries where they had been fighting.

Stained glass ceiling above main foyer, depicting the Coat of Arms of all British Dominions & Colonies during the First World War (Gibraltar, Kenya, South Africa, New Foundland, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, India, Ceylon, Malaya and the Straits Settlements, the Channel Islands, Fiji, Jamaica and Malta).

The First World War Sanctuary
The First World War Sanctuary and the Roll of Honour which lists the full name and service details of each serviceperson from the Auckland province who died as a result of that war. The pages are still turned daily.
In the early 1960s, the Museum was expanded, both to increase the Museum’s display, storage and work space and also to expand the war memorial to include those killed in the Second World War. In 1991, the Second World War Hall of memory was expanded once more, this time to include the Roll of Honour for servicemen and women killed in the Korea, Malaya-Borneo and Vietnam conflicts.

Stained glass windows at either end of the World War Two Hall of Memory commemorating the Battles of Britain and the River Plate, and honouring the airforce and navy respectively.

World War Two Hall of Memory

Second World War shrine in the Hall of Memory. The globe represents the worldwide theatre of the war. The  stained glass windows depict the insignia of various units, including the WAAFs, WAACs, and WRNZNs.
The second floor of the Museum is devoted to memorials of war. The Rolls of Honour for the First and Second World Wars are engraved in white Sicilian marble set into the walls, as well as being contained in handwritten leather-bound volumes. 

The ‘Scars on the Heart’ exhibition covers the New Zealand civil wars and the 19th-century Anglo-Boer War, as well as the First and Second World Wars, the conflicts in Asia and the New Zealand military’s involvement in more recent United Nations peacekeeping missions. There is also a military information centre, The Armoury, with copious resources for researchers of military history and for families wanting to trace their own ancestors’ military service.

One of the displays

The exterior of the building is also an integral part of the war memorial, conveying information about the battles in which New Zealanders fought and honouring those brave men and women who served their country in those bloody and difficult times.

Around the exterior of the building is a frieze. The First World War frieze depicts 44 battle scenes; the Second World War frieze depicts members of the armed services, including nurses.

Engraved above each window is the name of a battle or campaign in which New Zealanders fought.
Unlike modern wars, one third of the 18,166 New Zealanders who died in World War One have no known grave. The Auckland War Memorial Museum serves as a place where a grateful society can honour their sacrifice, and their friends and family can remember them. Lest we forget.

The water feature in front of the Cenotaph is engraved with the Ode of Remembrance.

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