- Politics and Social Issues
Incredible Visual Display that Brings Understanding to Anzac Day
Visual Reminder of Anzac Day
As a child, growing up in Zimbabwe, I remember poppy day as the time of year when all the adults would pin a red crepe paper poppy to their fronts and talk about war. It was only when I moved to New Zealand decades later that I gained an understanding of what poppy day was all about. An exhibition in Te Papa Museum in Wellington has added colour and life to that understanding and is well worth a visit.
Anzac Day is the 25th April each year and this commemorates the day in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops landed in Gallipoli - which is situated in current day Turkey. It was the beginning of eight months of extreme hardship and loss that ultimately took the lives of 2779 New Zealanders. The sacrifice of these men is remembered at dawn parades and services around the country on Anzac Day and all shops remain closed until midday. Poppies are for sale across the country and locals pin them to their chests and wear them with pride and sorrow.
Te Papa Museum in Wellington has put together a world class exhibition which has been named, Gallipoli: The Scale of our War. One of the main attractions is the lifelike models which are 2.4 times the size of a man and are incredibly detailed. The soldiers' hairs are visible, sweat glistens on their brow, blood trickles from wounds and sorrow is evident in their expressions and posture. The museum say it took 24,000 hours to create these models which represent the lives of eight New Zealanders involved in Gallipoli. Some of the models are displayed on their own while others pose in a battle scene. The mood in each room of the exhibition is somber and quiet as people reflect and grasp the enormity of the sacrifices made.
The exhibition also includes a replica trench complete with a bunker, latrine and even a cat. Conditions were terrible and visitors read that some soldiers were so weak and ill, they fell into the latrine and were unable to pull themselves out. Video brings the story to life and sound effects make you feel like you're in the battle. It was an eye-opening look at the severe hardship the soldiers experienced and the terrible conditions of war. The human element is revealed through letters, photos, and stories inscribed on the walls for visitors to read. There is also a cutaway model of a hospital ship that shows an operating theatre, wards and living quarters.
The exhibition concludes with a moving display of a lifelike model of a soldier, knee deep in poppies. Visitors are invited to help themselves to a poppy from a nearby container. Poppies were initially adopted as a memorial of war after Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned the following poem after the Great War 1914-1918.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Poppies and Anzac Day
A Fallen Soldier
Have you Ever Pinned a Poppy?
Have you ever pinned a poppy to your chest to remember Anzac Day
The Anzac Girls
By the end of the Great War, forty-five Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service and over two hundred had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable.