Young woman walking in the Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Young woman walking in the Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

ANZAC Day has past; the poppies are gone from lapels, the wreaths cleared from the cenotaph steps. The medals of long-dead grandfathers are back in their boxes and the business of remembering is packed up for another year. The crosses are gone now too. A Field of Remembrance on the lawn in front of the Auckland Museum commemorating the men and women from the Auckland region who went to war and did not return.

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Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

I watched people walk amongst those crosses. Some were looking for a specific name; a grandfather or great uncle. Others were simply curious. Older people walked slowly, children ran between the rows, enjoying the sunshine and the experience of something different.

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Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum, ANZAC Day, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

It is 100 years since a disastrous military campaign at Gallipoli robbed thousands of men of their lives and stole from as many families their sons, brothers and fathers. For New Zealanders, Gallipoli was the first large-scale loss of life in World War I; the first inkling that following the “mother country” (Britain) into war mightn’t be a great adventure — “over by Christmas.” Almost a fifth of the Kiwi troops who landed at Gallipoli died there.

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Many, many more were to die in Europe  — on the Somme and at Passchendaele  — and in the Middle East. Those who survived suffered wounds, sickness and psychological damage that largely went undiagnosed and untreated. And of course, their suffering rippled outwards, changing the lives of the women and children they returned to. Women’s suffering in wartime is so often ignored.

Many years ago I read Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (recently made into a movie). Vera Brittain served as a VAD (voluntary aid detachment) nurse during WWI, tending the sick and wounded while her brother, fiance and their friends who had volunteered to serve in the British Army were all killed. I took the title of this post from her poem Roundel, written for the loss of her fiance, Roland Leighton. I’ve included it below.

Roundel

By Vera Mary Brittain

(“Died of Wounds”)

Because you died, I shall not rest again,
    But wander ever through the lone world wide,
Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain
            Because you died.
 
I shall spend brief and idle hours beside
    The many lesser loves that still remain,
But find in none my triumph and my pride;
 
And Disillusion’s slow corroding stain
    Will creep upon each quest but newly tried,
For every striving now shall nothing gain
            Because you died.

 

This is my last post (no pun intended) on the subject of ANZAC Day — at least until next year (honest, I promise) — but I did want to share these photos of visitors to the Auckland Field of Remembrance, and Sally’s weekly photo challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally seemed a good place to do so. You can see Sally’s images, and those of others who have taken part in the challenge here.

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“Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain”

18 thoughts on ““Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain”

  1. Such very poignant images, Su. And what more can be said than in Vera Brittain’s roundel. Testament of Youth is in many ways the best account I’ve read of WW1. And the reasons are, unlike the battle scene histories, Vera Brittain deals with the consequences of war – from the monumentally tragic of a whole generation decimated to the minuitiae of mopping up the mess of battle after battle. Brilliant ‘last post’.

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    • Thank you Tish. I also think Testament of Youth is just about the best thing I’ve ever read about WWI. It’s been very much in my mind as we’ve whipped ourselves up into a collective national frenzy over ANZAC Day. This year in particular has been very militaristic. If I were cynical I’d say our government’s recent decision (un-debated by parliament) to sent troops to Iraq might have something to do with the gung-ho spin on the commemorations this year.

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  2. Pingback: Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Challenger’s Choice (Still Life with American Willow and Eastern Redbud) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  3. This makes me feel the way I felt standing at Omaha Beach and other places in Normandy. My f-i-l landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and was also in the Pacific theater later in the war. Somber, sobering moments.

    On a happier note, I went to look for “Testament of Youth”, pretty sure our library wouldn’t have it. The title has been changed to “Chronicle of Youth” here, but they do have it, so I put it on hold. Thanks for sharing.

    janet

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    • Thanks Janet. We discovered a few years ago that we’d literally driven past the British cemetary at Martinsart where T’s great uncle is buried without even know that he’d died in WWI – let alone where he was buried. We’re planning to go back there sometime and visit the grave. To some people these pilgrimage seem macabre, but I think you are right, when we have walked in the places of our ancestors, we make connections that are very profound and very special. Hope you enjoy Testament (Chronicle). Su.

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    • Wow. NZ military recrord are really good. Archives NZ website Archway is a great place to start. They have been digitising records (more or less on a on-demand basis), so you might even find your great grandfather’s records are already available.

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  4. Su, this I a very moving post! Tears pricked at my eyes as I studied your photos and read Vera Briittain’s poem. I haven’t come across the poem before – it’s a sharp and poignant account of how grief and loss changes things.

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  5. Pingback: Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Challenger’s Choice–Architecture | Pilot Fish

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