WWI remembrance project launched

Last updated 10:41 18/04/2013
Last Post, First Light
Last Post First Light is Fairfax Media's ongoing project dedicated to preserving the stories of New Zealand's military history.

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Five years of commemorations to mark the centenary of World War I began this morning with the unveiling of the National Cross of Remembrance at Te Papa.

The large, white cross, which represents more than 100,000 Kiwis who served in the war, will be displayed at the national museum until after Anzac Day.

More than 18,000 Kiwis were killed in action during WWI and 55,000 were wounded during the global conflict that raged from 1914 to 1918.

Museum boss Mike Houlihan outlined how Te Papa, in association with the Fields of Remembrance Trust, would mark the centenary of the war's end at a ceremony in Wellington.

"Today's ceremony is just the beginning of what will be a reflective and thoughtful examination of the impact the First World War has had on shaping the lives of all New Zealanders," he said.

"The theme for our centennial programme is 'conflict' and its impact on people and societies, in particular, how conflict has shaped our nationhood and identity over the past thousand years."

A major feature of the five-year programme will be the Anzac exhibition, which includes a recreation of the Quinn's Post Trench - a key Anzac position in Gallipoli.

"We've seen the trenches portrayed in film and photographs. But this experience will bring home the detail, unimaginable horror and reality of the bravery and sacrifice of every soldier thrown into this conflict which was fought at close quarters," Mr Houlihan said.

The history team at Te Papa is also running an outreach programme, Kiwi Faces of World War I, to identify soldiers photographed just before they went to war.

Te Papa has about 170 glass plate negatives taken by Wellington photographers Berry and Co.  So far about 60 have been identified.

The museum is also contributing to the Life 100 Years Ago 'real time' diary project coordinated by the First World War Centenary Programme Office. It holds the 40 diaries that span the period 1905 to 1964.

People can follow the daily entries of Horowhenua farmer Leslie Adkins on Twitter (@adkin_diary). He kept a diary from the year after he left secondary school until his death, which tells of life and love in New Zealand during the war.

Te Papa Press is producing an illustrated book based on original research with a focus on the impact of war on the home front.

Two smaller crosses were also unveiled at the museum this morning.

They were dedicated to Australian Captain Albert Jacka and Wellington-born Lieutenant Colonel WilliamGeorge Malone, were also be hung to represent the Anzac relationship.

Colonel Malone commanded the Wellington Infantry Battalion during the Gallipoli invasion and was killed in action during the battle of Chunuk Bair.

The crosses are part of a wider initiative that will see people across the country erect their own crosses, which will be brought together in Wellington to create one field of remembrance on Remembrance Day in November 2018.

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Fields of Remembrance Trust Chairman David McGregor said the ''White Crosses Project'' was something everyone would get involved in.

''We will be encouraging and supporting each community to establish their own field of remembrance with a Community Cross of Remembrance and individual Personalised Crosses of Remembrance.''

Fairfax Media central region general manager Gerard Watt said the company also had some significant commemorative events planned over the next five years, as it partnered with the Fields of Remembrance Trust.

''Through 'Last Post First Light' Fairfax Media will tell the personal stories that helped shape our national identity,'' he said.

''It's about providing a better understanding and the White Crosses Project remembers those who made the greatest sacrifice and Last Post First Light will play a role in getting communities involved in local events.'' 

- The Dominion Post


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