Anzac Day: on helping us to remember

Small boy examining Field of Remembrance cross, Auckland Museum. Private Augustine Bond, from Papakura, Auckland, served with the Auckland Infantry Battalion, and died on April 25th, 1916, in first landing at Gallipoli. He is buried in Baby 700 Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey. Image: Su Leslie, 2015

Private Augustine Bond, aged 25, from Papakura, Auckland. He served with the Auckland Infantry Battalion, and died on April 25th, 1916, in the first landing at Gallipoli. He is buried in Baby 700 Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey. Image: Su Leslie, 2015

April 25th is Anzac Day in New Zealand and Australia; our most important national day of remembrance, for all Australians and New Zealanders:

“who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps; a term – and an entity – that came into existence in World War One.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day, and its role in our national culture has, if anything, grown in recent years. It is not uncommon for whole families to attend dawn services, not only at our major war memorials, but even in the smallest local communities.

The Fields of Remembrance Project has been set up to honour New Zealanders who lost their lives in WWI. White crosses are being placed in locations all around the country; each one bearing the name, rank and service number of one of this tiny country’s 18,200 dead.

Field of Remembrance Cross, Auckland Museum. Private Edwin Cox, from the Auckland Infantry Battalion 16th (Waikato) Company; died on the first day of the disastrous Gallipoli landings; 25 April 1915. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Private Edwin Cox, from the Auckland Infantry Battalion 16th (Waikato) Company; died on the first day of the disastrous Gallipoli landings; 25 April 1915. He had celebrated his 23rd birthday two weeks earlier. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The Auckland Museum’s Field of Remembrance has 1684  crosses (and currently two Stars of David); bearing the names of those who died in 1915 or 1916, and who served with Auckland regiments or came from the wider Auckland region.

Star of David, Field of Remembrance, Auckland Museum. Private Maurice Simon Caro joined the 2/13th Kensington Battalion, The London Regiment, 1914. Born Christchurch and resident in Auckland, Maurice Caro was a wine importer before the war. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Private Maurice Simon Caro joined the 2/13th Kensington Battalion, The London Regiment, 1914. Born in Christchurch but resident in Auckland, Maurice Caro was a wine importer before the war. He died on July 2, 1916, during the First Battle of the Somme. The Caro Bowl, an Auckland tennis competition trophy, was established by his parents in his memory. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Next year, the names of those who died in 1917 will be added to the Fields; the same will happen in 2018 for those who died in the final year of WWI — including the Big T’s great uncle Eric.

I have no connection with the men commemorated above. Their names appear prominently in these images mainly because of the way the Field was laid out and the practical considerations of taking a photo.

But it seemed wrong to share them without trying to know a little about the men whose names they bear. Most of the biographical information that I found has come from Online Cenotaph, a project undertaking as part of the WWI commemorations, by the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

This project not only collates official information about our war dead, it is also open to family members and other researchers to add information, images and memories. As a family historian, I am hugely excited by this clever (and very user-friendly) application of technology to help preserve the memories of those who died in the service of our country.

As a personal plea to my NZ readers; if you have family members who served in the NZ military, and you haven’t already explored the Online Cenotaph, please click on the link and take a look. This is our resource, and a wonderful opportunity to contribute to our nation’s collective memory.

 

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24 thoughts on “Anzac Day: on helping us to remember

  1. I’ve had to rewrite this comment because in the process of writing the first one, I went off to look up my Great Uncle James in the Australian War Memorial records online which then led me to look for him in other places and now I’m feeling a bit emotional. (He died in France in October 2016, aged 28, serving with the Canadian Infantry.) I guess that’s what ANZAC Day does to you.

    Great Uncle James served with the Canadians but I can still find him in the records as they have a list of those Australians who served but in non-Australian forces. Dad knew this and had found him in the records but in his case he had to travel to Canberra and find him in a book. All I had to do was punch his name into a search field. How wonderful is that?

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    • How did your great uncle come to be serving with the Candians? I was a little bit surprised to find my Private Caro in an English Regiment, but in his obituary, it said he joined the “Artists Regiment”. I had all sorts of visions of what that might mean!!! I know what you mean about how easy it is to find people now. I love that the Online Cenotaph and your Australian War Memorial are trying to bring together lots of scattered knowledge. BTW: I was watching something on TV recently about Charles Bean, and how important his work was in WWI, not only as an Australian war correspondent, but later with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and of course the Australian War Memorial. It’s always heartening to know that some good came out of so much misery and destruction.

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  2. Whenever I see the fields filled with crosses like that, it makes me remember again how much has been lost in the course of nations fighting nations while young people die. Also interesting to see that one Star of David mixed in with all those crosses.

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    • I agree Amy; it is a very visual reminder. Last year I noticed one Star of David; this year two. It was interesting because at the time I’d wondered about the appropriateness of crosses for everyone. I like that the Caro family donated a sporting trophy in memory of their son, but wonder how many people who are playing for the cup actually realise its history.

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    • It’s my understanding that any organisation can register to create its own field (most likely location- or workplace- based). There are four regional fields (Auckland’s is at the Musuem) and one at each of the country’s military bases. Schools were apparently also sent packs so that they could research local people who served and commemorate them. http://www.fieldsofremembrance.org.nz/ Cheers, Su.

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    • Thank you. I think part of our deep attachment to Anzac Day is that it was the first time our new nation had sent significant numbers of troops to what was essentially a foreign war. NZ’s losses on a per capita basis were horrendous; every little farming town and village lost at least one of its young men. Even where I live, which wasn’t much more than a collection of orchards and farms until recently has a War Memorial with a depressing number of names on it.

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