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.
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.
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.