Editorial: Anzac centenary lining up

Last updated 05:00 25/04/2014

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OPINION: Our reporter had a mild tease for southern historian Aaron Fox when the pair were going over events planned throughout Southland to mark the coming World War I centenary.

Fully 13 projects have been lined up and, though financial support is still needed on many fronts, it's shaping up to be an undertaking of impressive scale and depth.

That's where the tease came from. Was it not shockingly inappropriate, the reporter suggested, that a war of multifaceted planning disasters was being commemorated by a thoughtful, tidy piece of planning?

By way of reply, Fox gently suggested we shouldn't forget the times when the greater problem was how well the plans were executed.

Maybe so. But it's heartening to consider the upcoming events and see the potential within them. Provided, of course, the execution isn't stuffed up.

Central to the co-ordination role has been the pairing of Venture Southland and the local historical group Kia Mate Toa: Fight Unto Death, working with councils, community organisations and individuals.

Alongside the pretty-much-requisite museum displays, book projects and library projects, and a project to locate and preserve Southland's war memorials, there's to be a Southland Gallipoli Heritage Trail to highlight objects and stories in museum collections across Southland that people might want to tour and check out.

But events will also come to them, such as through a travelling exhibition led by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill City Library and Archives and Southland Oral History Project, visiting schools and community events..

A cluster of re-creation projects is also included, perhaps most notably a re-enactment unit of the 8th Southland Infantry of 1915. This is not likely to be a larrikin outfit. There's talk of long hours to be spent practising infantry drills and tactics taken from the original military manuals of 1914.

And of course this unit will need to look the part with replicas of the original uniforms, headgear, footwear and equipment. Happily, that's do-able. Examples of the originals have been gathered and the organisers have found that some New Zealand-based companies which provided defence contracts before and during the war are still out there - and able to manufacture the replicas a century later.

There will also be scope to provide replicas for museum and display purposes.

Southern schools should appreciate the proposed 8th Southland Kitbag, a resource providing a combination of replicated uniform and equipment matched to the specific identities and stories of Southland soldiers at Gallipoli.

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But perhaps no project carries more potential significance than the Kia Mate Toa website. Ithas been launched and is being developed with the full database and campaign pages due to be completed by August. It will list all who served in Egypt and Gallipoli from August 1914 to December 1915, compiled from personal records, contemporary photos. But it will also have a personal stories page, re-enactment page and other information that comes to hand.

And nowhere is it written that the 13 projects will be the end of it. One of them is supporting local community events and celebrations - in the knowledge that so many of our communities will know for themselves what events would most resonate in their own districts

- The Southland Times

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