“Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain”

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.

ANZAC remembrance: battlefield nurses

Seen on the Auckland Domain Field of Remembrance, ANZAC Day, 2015. Mary Helen Rae died in the sinking of the hospital ship Marquette on On the 23 October 1915. The ship was torpedoed by German U-boat near Salonika; 10 New Zealand nurses, 19 members of the New Zealand Medical Corps and three New Zealand soldiers lost their lives. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Seen on the Auckland Domain Field of Remembrance, ANZAC Day, 2015. Mary Helen Rae died in the sinking of the hospital ship Marquette on the 23 October 1915. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near Salonika, Greece. 10 New Zealand nurses, 19 members of the New Zealand Medical Corps and three New Zealand soldiers lost their lives in the attack. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

 25 April 2015

Yesterday was ANZAC Day. Always the most important day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders, this year it assumed particular significance as the 100th anniversary of the event ANZAC Day directly commemorates – the beginning of an Allied campaign against the Turkish Army at Gallipoli.

I’ve written about Gallipoli and ANZAC Day here and here so will only reiterate that the campaign was an unmitigated disaster costing an estimated 120,000 lives — Turkish, British, French, Indian, Australian and Kiwi — with as many as 300,000 more left sick and wounded. After eight months, the Allies withdrew, having failed in their objective of capturing the peninsula.

This year, unsurprisingly, ANZAC commemorations have been huge. Auckland’s cenotaph is located at the Auckland Museum, and this has provided a focal point. The lawn in front of the museum has been turned into a Field of Remembrance, with white crosses (and one Star of David) and poppies representing everyone from the Auckland region who lost their life in WWI. Wandering amongst these, I noticed the names of three nurses: Staff Nurses Mary Helen Rae, Nora Mildred Hildyard and Marion Sinclair Brown.

This got me thinking about how much attention has been given in the news and popular culture to men’s experiences of war. Films like Peter Weir’s Gallipoli and Maurice Shadbolt‘s brilliant play (later a movie) Once on Chunik Bair focus on the experiences of fighting men at Gallipoli, but women also served in the campaign — as nurses on board hospital ships and in field hospitals.

The first New Zealand hospital ship — the HS Mahino — arrived off Gallipoli on 25 August 1915 with fourteen nurses aboard, and was immediately innundated with casualties from the last main offensive of the campaign – the Battle of Hill 60.

The Mahino, and others like it, were equipped to treat the wounded and sick while ferrying them to field hospitals in Greece, Malta and Egypt. It seems that Kiwi nurses had been prepared to serve earlier in the war, but the NZ government was advised by the British, who were in charge of the campaign, that our nurses would not be required!

In total 626 nurses served in the New Zealand Army Nursing Service in WWI. Twenty one were were killed during hostilities or died from illnesses contracted during their time of service. Ten of those nurses — including the three named above — lost their lives on 23 October 1915 when a German U-Boat torpedoed the transport ship Marquette. The sinking of the Marquette cost 167 lives, 32 of them New Zealanders.

It seems that, unlike the hospital ships, which were painted white and were therefore distinguishable to enemy ships and U-Boats, the Marquette was painted grey and therefore “fair game.” To make matters worse, an empty hospital ship had departed the same port as the Marquette on the same day. If this had been used to transport the wounded and the medical personnel, those people would in all likelihood have survived their journey (Ten NZ nurses lost in Marquette sinking, 23 October 1915. New Zealand History.net)

The ten were:

22/104 BROWN, Marion Sinclair

22/108 CLARK, Isabel

22/118 FOX, Catherine

22/73 GORMAN, Mary

22/125 HILDYARD, Nora Mildred

22/130 ISDELL, Helena Kathleen (matron of Kumara Hospital)

22/133 JAMESON, Mabel Elizabeth

22/161 RAE, Mary Helen

22/160 RATTRAY, Lorna A

22/175 ROGERS, Margaret

Nine of the nurses who died in the sinking of the Marquette. Nora Hildyard is shown below. Photo: RootsWeb.

Nine of the nurses who died in the sinking of the Marquette. Nora Hildyard is shown below. Photo: RootsWeb.

NORAL HILDYARD

Staff Nurse Nora Hildyard. Photo: NZ Army Nursing Service.

 

The bodies of nine of these nurses were never found, and they are remembered on the Mikra Memorial, at the Mikra British Cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece. This memorial commemorates “almost 500 nurses, officers and men of the Commonwealth forces who died when troop transports and hospital ships were lost in the Mediterranean, and who have no grave but the sea.” (Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Mikra Memorial). The tenth, Staff Nurse Margaret Rogers is buried in the Mikra Cemetery – her body having been found in a lifeboat.

All ten are also remembered on a panel in the Christchurch Hospital Nurses’ Memorial Chapel located on the Christchurch Hospital site. Although damaged in the Feb 22 2011 earthquake, the chapel has survived. (‘Christchurch nurses’ memorial chapel‘, Ministry for Culture and Heritage).

I’m not sure why Nurses Rae, Hildyard and Brown are commemorated in the Auckland Field of Remembrance as all three were from the South Island. I am glad however, that they are and that in some small way we remember the women who also travelled across the world and endured much the same hardships and suffering as the men they cared for and treated.

(not exactly) Six Word Saturday: ANZAC Day – we will remember them

Small girl at Auckland's Field of Remembrance. A cross (or Star of David) has been placed in the lawn outside the War Memorial Museum for every ANZAC service man and woman who lost their life in WWI. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Small girl at Auckland’s Field of Remembrance. A cross (or Star of David) has been placed in the lawn outside the War Memorial Museum for every ANZAC service man and woman who lost their life in WWI. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

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.

Ode of Remembrance, part of the poem For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon, 1914.

Playing with line and shadow

Could it be more black and white? This sign at Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand repeats the words of a World War I recruiting poster.

Could it be more black and white? This sign at Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand repeats the words of a World War I recruiting poster. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, colour-edited with Pixlr Express.

Amongst the visual arts, sculpture is one of my favourites. I also love the interface between two and three dimensional art. The piece above sits high above an exhibition space at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. The words are from a World War I recruiting poster. At the time, New Zealand was a British Dominion and was swift to follow Britain in declaring war on Germany and its allies. Almost ten percent of New Zealand’s population served in that war, and this tiny country of around one million souls suffered a casualty rate of 58 percent – amongst the highest of any nation in the conflict.

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Coiled wire sculpture fixed to a white wall. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, colour-edited with Pixlr Express.

With some embarrassment I admit that when I took these shots, I didn’t note down the name of the artist, or the work – something I feel quite bad about as I know how important it is to acknowledge the creativity of artists.

I loved these two pieces; elaborate coils of wire attached to a white wall. As the light changed throughout the day, visitors experienced different patterns – and indeed different sculptures.

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Coiled wire sculpture fixed to a white wall. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, colour-edited with Pixlr Express.

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Kerrie Poliness, ‘Black O’. Installation at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013. Shot with iPhone4, colour-edited with Pixlr Express.

Kerrie Poliness is a Melbourne-based artist. This installation at the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, NZ consists of lines drawn directly onto the walls with black marker pen – creating the illusion of three-dimensionality.

This week at Lens and Pens by Sally, the challenge theme is black and white. You can join in here.

ANZAC Day: art and remembrance

Anzac Illuminations, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

Anzac Illuminations, Auckland War Memorial Museum. A silent display of war footage projected on the museum facade which attracts thousands of Aucklanders each year. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

April 25th in ANZAC Day here 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.”

 A bit of history you can skip over if you already know it

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps; a term – and an entity – that came into existence in World War One. The ANZACs first major engagement was the ill-fated and disastrous attempt to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, in what is now Turkey, from troops of the Ottoman Empire – with whom the British Empire was at war.

The Gallipoli offensive – involving troops from Britain, India, Canada and France as well as Australia and New Zealand – began at dawn on April 25, 1915 with thousands of soldiers landing along the rugged, hilly coast of the peninsula. The objective was to charge Turkish posts (which unsurprisingly were on high ground), and capture key points along the landmass. That offensive, and each subsequent attack over the following EIGHT months, failed to capture significant ground. The defeated and exhausted remnants of the Allied expeditionary force were finally evacuated in January 1916.

Around 120,000 troops lost their lives during the Gallipoli Campaign (Allies and Turks); 8709 of them were Australian; 2721 were Kiwis. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that New Zealand’s total population at that time was only about a million people.

ANZAC troops fought and suffered terrible casualties in all the major WWI European battles too, but Gallipoli shaped our national psyches like no other.

What ANZAC Day means to me

I’m a child of the ’60s, a mother, an internationalist rather than a patriot. Yet I commemorate ANZAC Day, not out of glorification of war, but because it is such a stark reminder of human suffering. The Allies failed at Gallipoli; and in sending wave after wave of soldiers ashore, their commanders killed and maimed almost 200,000 mainly young men. ANZAC Day reminds us, not of boys-own, gung-ho, biff, pow, comic-book war, but of mud and blood and fear and misery. And in that, it has become a force for peace.

Strange Fruit, by Turtle Donna Sarten at the Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington.

Turtle Donna Sarten, ‘Strange Fruit’. Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, 2013. The ‘strange fruit’ of the title is 3890 military dog tags – one for each of the New Zealanders who served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972. Vietnam was a war people wanted to forget, yet the suffering of veterans is immense and ongoing. I’ve written more about this work here. Photo: Su Leslie

Art and remembrance

Art makes some of the clearest and most powerful statements about the world. Art which draws on, and references the military can be particularly powerful.

Helen Pollock, 'Victory Medal' 2010. Photo: Howard Williams

Helen Pollock, ‘Victory Medal’ 2010.Feet lined up in ‘Standing To’ formation; scarred, naked, battle-weary. Photo: Howard Williams.

NZ Sculpture OnShore is a biennial sculpture exhibition that raises money for Women’s Refuge. It is held at Fort Takapuna, a Historic Reserve that was once part of New Zealand’s coastal defense and has a long association with the military. In this blog post  I’ve looked at some of the artistic responses to the site over the last few exhibitions.

NZ Sculpture OnShore ANZAC Day blog post 2014

NZ Sculpture OnShore ANZAC Day blog post 2014. Click on the image to see more of the post.

To me, these are beautiful and poignant works. I’d like to know what you think.

 

Defining nationhood: we are what we eat?

anzacs on tray

Cheap and easy to make, delicious to eat. If they make it into a biscuit tin in our house, it means the boys are unwell.

First of all, thanks to Seonaid at Breathofgreenair for inspiring me to write this post with her comment about Anzac biscuits on my recent post about Anzac Day and remembrance in New Zealand and Australia.

For those of you who don’t know –  Anzac biscuits (think cookies North American readers) –  are a delicious sweet biscuit made with flour, rolled oats, coconut, butter, sugar and golden syrup. Legend has it that the biscuits are so named because they were sent by women in Australia and New Zealand to their men-folk serving in World War I.

From what I can gather, this isn’t quite true; the ANZAC troops were issued with an army biscuit (known at the time as a ANZAC wafer or ANZAC tile), but this bears no relation to the biscuit we know now, and according to the Australian War Memorial website:

is essentially a long shelf-life, hard tack biscuit, eaten as a substitute for bread. Unlike bread, though, the biscuits are very, very hard. Some soldiers preferred to grind them up and eat as porridge.

It seems that the first recipe for the biscuit we know today appeared in 1921, according to Professor Helen Leach, of the Archaeology Department of the University of Otago:

The combination of the name Anzac and the recipe now associated with it first appeared in the 9th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1921) under the name “Anzac Crispies”. Subsequent editions renamed this “Anzac Biscuits” and Australian cookery books followed suit.

ANZAC biscuits are commercially available in Australia and New Zealand, but frankly I don’t know why anyone would bother to buy these when they are so cheap, easy and quick to make. In fact, here’s a recipe.

Anzac Biscuits*

1 cup flour

1 cup white sugar

1 ¾ cups desiccated coconut (the coarsely shredded type is great for texture)

1 ½ cups rolled oats

100g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

 NB: this recipe also specifies ¼ cup chopped walnuts, but these are not traditional and I tend to omit them

 Preheat the over to 160 degrees Celsius. Mix the flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats in a bowl.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together.

Stir the baking soda into the boiling water, then mix the butter and baking soda mixtures together (NB: either do this in a new bowl, or make sure you’ve melted the butter in a large pan as the mixture bubbles up. I find that adding the baking soda to the butter then immediately pouring this over the dry ingredients works fine).

Combine wet and dry ingredients thoroughly.

Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture (NB: I use a dessert spoon for bigger biscuits) into balls and place on well-greased or baking-paper-lined oven tray.

 Press flat, allowing room for them to spread.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (NB: maybe my oven is hotter, but I find they are cooked after 15-20 minutes – even the larger biscuits I make).

Cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

* This recipe comes from Jo Seagar’s All Things Nice. Random House, Auckland, 2002.

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Latte and biscuits. I didn’t actually eat both of them; that’s just my attempt at food styling.