Eighteen thousand Kiwi sons and daughters

Tomorrow is Armistice Day, and 100 years since the end of WWI. As part of the commemoration, a Field of Remembrance has been created on the lawn at the Auckland Musuem. There is a cross (or a Star of David) for every one of the more than 18,000 New Zealand men and women who died in that conflict.

This evening, hundreds of people walked through the field, many looking for specific ancestors. The Big T and I found both of his great uncles; one who died at Gallipoli, the other in the Third Battle of the Somme.

There is a separate area of the field commemorating the 1461 dead who also lost siblings, children or fathers in the conflict.

In a country of around a million people, New Zealand’s loss of 18,000 young men and women is tragic. Hardly a family in the country would have been untouched.

But how much worse for those families who lost more than one son or daughter. Tonight I can’t stop thinking about those mothers; especially the nine for whom the war robbed them of four of their children.

Posted to Six Word Saturday. Well, my title conforms.

Lest we forget: ANZAC Day 2018

The Big T’s great uncles:

— Pte Eric Andrew Gray, died in the Somme Valley, France, March 1918

— Lt Harry Marshall Wright, died at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, August 1915.

Commemorated alongside other servicemen and women from the Canterbury region at the Field of Remembrance, Cranmer Square, Christchurch.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.— Laurence Binyon, “For the Fallen”

Regular Random: five minutes with Lt Col. Percival Fenwick (1870-1958)

Detail; model of Lt. Col. Percival Fenwick from Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition at Te Papa, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Detail; model of Lt. Col. Percival Fenwick from Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition at Te Papa, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

While in Wellington last week, I went to the exhibition Gallipoli: The scale of our war at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Created in partnership with Weta Workshop, the exhibition explores the WWI Gallipoli campaign through the lives and memories of eight individuals who served there. For each of the eight, a giant (2.4 times normal size) life-like model was created by Weta, showing them at a particular moment.

Lt. Colonel Percival Fenwick, who features in these photos, was a 45-year-old surgeon with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He was amongst the first New Zealanders to land at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915 and remained there for two months until evacuated; sick and exhausted.

The Te Papa model shows Fenwick on May 4th 1915, leaning over Infantryman Jack Aitken of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment, in despair at not being able to save the man’s life.

Model of Lt Col Percival Fenwick. Te Papa. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Model of Lt Col Percival Fenwick. Te Papa. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Percival Fenwick survived WWI and returned to New Zealand where he continued to practice medicine. He died aged 88, in 1958.

This is a much more sombre subject than I usually post for the Five Minutes of Random (the RegularRandom challenge), but the exhibition was very moving and worthwhile.

Five Minutes of Random is a weekly photo challenge hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist.

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.

 

“The horses stayed behind”

Close-up shot of horsehair rosette, from Cat Auburn's 'The Horses Stayed Behind'. Seen at Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Detail; ‘The Horses Stayed Behind’, Cat Auburn, 2015. Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

During World War I, the New Zealand government sent 10,000 horses overseas with its Expeditionary Force. These horses were not only ridden by mounted troops, but also used for artillery and transport everywhere NZ troops served; including Gallipoli, Palestine and the Western Front.

At the end of the war, only four horses returned to New Zealand (New Zealand History: NZ’s First World War horses).

Artist Cat Auburn took this astonishing and disturbing piece of information as inspiration and starting point for the work The Horses Stayed Behind which was recently exhibited at the Sargent Gallery in Whanganui.

'The Horses Stayed Behind', Cat Auburn, 2015. Memorial to horses sent to WWI, comprised of horsehair rosettes mounted on five canvas panels.Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

‘The Horses Stayed Behind’, Cat Auburn, 2015. Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The work consists of 500 horsehair rosettes positioned across five panels. Each one is made of hair from a single horse.

Sarah McClintock, from the gallery wrote of the work:

For The Horses Stayed Behind Auburn asked horse owners from across the country to donate a small clipping of full length hair from their horse or pony’s tail which she then made into rosettes, flowers made in the style of Victorian hair wreaths. 

'The Horses Stayed Behind', Cat Auburn, 2015. Memorial to horses sent to WWI, comprised of horsehair rosettes mounted on five canvas panels.Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Detail: ‘The Horses Stayed Behind’, Cat Auburn, 2015. Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

What struck me about this work — apart from the beauty and craftswomanship of each rosette — is that it is the only truly feminine war memorial I have ever seen.

The rosettes themselves are an example of a very feminine art-form. A lock cut from a loved one’s hair is widely seen as having sentimental value, and the making of jewellery and other objects — including mourning wreaths — has a long history (Wikipedia: Hair jewellery). In Victorian times, mourning wreaths were a form of family story-telling as well as providing a focus for grief.

In contrast to the more usual bronze or stone war memorials, which tend to be hard, cold and upright, The Horses Stayed Behind is soft and delicate — and horizontal. There is no sense of a monument towering over visitors; instead the panels are set at eye level and invite close inspection.

photo 5

Detail; ‘The Horses Stayed Behind’, Cat Auburn, 2015. Sargent Gallery Te Whare o Rehau Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

McClintock also wrote of the wider impact of the work:

Each donation of horse tail came to Auburn with a story. Some with small notes of support, others with cherished photographs and heartrending tales of riders and horses that have passed away. The cathartic nature of this project has gone well beyond the memorialisation of the World War One horses and has become an active way for members of the riding community to pay tribute to their colleagues, horses, and ponies. This type of mourning, a multi-sensory way of expressing grief, is a central part of The Horses Stayed Behind. Long forgotten events and memories of loved ones can be triggered by a smell, taste, or sound. The final form the rosettes take across the canvases not only resembles a heartbeat but also an isolated audio track. The horses and riders from the past and present join together in this work with a voice that speaks of collective mourning and loss.

Such a collaborative and multi-layered way of creating a memorial seems to me a very feminine approach, weaving many levels of meaning and remembrance — and the experiences of a diverse group of people — into the fabric of the work.

You can hear Cat Auburn talking about the work here:

https://soundcloud.com/sarjeantpodcast/episode-one-the-horses-stayed-behind

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: 11 November

From the entrance to 'Scars on the Heart' permanent exhibition, Auckland Museum. Image: Su Leslie, 2014

Photograph at the entrance to ‘Scars on the Heart’ permanent exhibition, Auckland Museum. Image: Su Leslie, 2014

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

— Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), For the Fallen