I had read about Gallipoli while at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth. As an Air Force guy, it went kinda over my head. “Lots of Casualties”, “Poor Logistics”, “Politics”, “Lots of Casualties”, “Churchill canned”. Got it. However…
So, there I was….* (c’mon, you knew I’d work it in dincha?)
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Put this on your Bucket List. Spent most of the day in this building, and probably would have spent even more except for this little inconvenience called “ship departure time.”
In any case (which is Texan for “Anyhoo”), Te Papa is a great museum. Since New Zealand is the southwestern extremity of the Ring of Fire, there’s a very informative presentation of Plate Tectonics to include a hands on exhibit on earthquake proofing your house. There’s an entire floor dedicated to Maori culture and art.
All that was worth the visit, but the reason for going was their exhibit called “Gallipoli, the scale of our war”. Created, and I believe largely funded, by Peter Jackson, (the producer of the Lord of the Rings series), the exhibit opened April 25th 2015 and will remain open through 2019. April 25th was chosen as the opening date because that was the date in 1915 that the invasion of Gallipoli began. I believe 2019 was chosen as the closing date as that would mark the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles. Bad as that was, it did bring an end to that war.
2,779 Kiwis were killed in the invasion out of a New Zealand contingent of 14,000. That’s a lot of dead soldiers, but much as Stalin said, it’s hard to get your mind to come to grips with what that really means.
Te Papa’s exhibit does an excellent job of bringing the human cost of Gallipoli into focus. They’ve got some really high tech devices that show the ebb and flow of particular actions in the battle, with battle lines displayed on 3D maps. They’ve got a computer simulation of a skeleton showing the simulated effect of bullets, grenades and shrapnel on a human. (Not really for the squeamish.) You could try your hand at looking through a trench periscope and “firing” an Enfield when you saw motion in the other trench. Lots and lots of photos, letters and memorabilia. All that wasn’t what brought the battle and the costs home to me.
The exhibit focuses on 8 participants, 7 men and a woman. Each participant’s participation is a section of the exhibit and each section has a figure of the person in focus. The figures were created by Weta Workshop specifically for the exhibit. Each figure is 2.4 times scale, so they are huge and dominate the section. Each was incredibly realistic.
|For scale, the woman is alive, the machine gunner is not. Source|
Unfortunately, my camera started fritzing on me in the museum and refusing to focus, so most of the images are from what's available online. Additionally, Te Papa's Exhibit Website is very good, with excellent detail of the exhibit figures and specific details about the particular section.
Te Papa’s blog has posts on each of the 8 participants that provide additional details about that person and, for those fortunate enough, their lives after the war.
Lt Westmacott’s participation lasted a matter of minutes. Shortly after landing, he was shot in the arm, collapsing on the beach. As he falls, he shoots at his attacker with his pistol. Evacuated from the beach, his arm is removed. He recovers and finishes the war as a staff officer. After the war, he returns to New Zealand where he farms and becomes a semi-famous artist.
Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick was a surgeon on Gallipoli. His diary was a prime source for much of the entire exhibit as he frankly described the situation, conditions and his opinions. He survives the invasion and the war, passing away in 1958.
PFC Jack Dunn was, perhaps, the most interesting. The figure in his section most reflected the misery of the troops' circumstances. He’s eating his meal, bully beef and flies, with his hands which are cut, scraped, bloody and muddy. The picture above doesn’t show the detail that the exhibit homepage does. PFC Dunn contracts dysentery and eventually is hospitalized on Anzac Cove beach. Returned to duty, but not fully recovered, he’s put on guard duty. Unfortunately, he falls asleep. At a Courts Martial for the offense, he’s sentenced to death.
|Dunn (bare headed lower left) being sentenced to death.|
|Two boys cleaning up the battlefield in 1919|
Rikihana Carkeek, Colin Warden and Friday Hawkins
Manning a machine gun, during the battle of Chunuk Bair, Colin Warden is quickly killed, managing to tell his machine gun team to “Carry On, Boys” before he dies. Carkeek is feeding belts into the machine gun when he’s shot through the neck. He manages to crawl 5 kilometers back to the beach and the hospital. Hawkins, continues manning the machine gun until a bullet fractures his forearm. Discharged in 1916, he reenlists in WWII and fights in Egypt in 1941. Returning to New Zealand in 1942, he transfers to the Air Force in 1943. This warrior finally passes away in 1968.
Lottie Le Gallais
This section of the exhibit was perhaps the dustiest one in the place. Miss Le Gallais was a nurse on the hospital ship. Most of the displays in this section were her recollections of the wounded. Her brother Leddie was also at Gallipoli. Miss Le Gallais was a prolific letter writer and sent him several letters. She arrived at Gallipoli in late August hoping to see him at some point. Finally, in October, she received the letters she'd sent via returned mail. All marked “Killed”. This was her first notification that he’d been killed in July before she’d arrived. The figure in this section does a fine job of capturing her anguish at that moment.
The morning we went was the day prior to Remembrance Day. The place was packed with school children. There were at least 4 classes, based on different uniforms, in the exhibit. I was impressed with their behavior, and the questions asked and answers given both by the teachers and the students. The Kiwis, at least as of now, are indeed making sure to remember on Remembrance Day.
One of the stops along the cruise was the town of Akaroa. It’s a small town, in the off season its population is around 500, roughly the same as it was in WWI. The town has a small cenotaph along the beach and arranged in front were 108 crosses representing the 108 men from the town killed in the First World War.
|Sorry about the focus, the camera was giving me fits and this was the best I had|
If you estimate the demographics of how many men of military age a town of 500 might have, then subtract 108 from that…It’s hard for a town to grow if there are no men to help produce children. Perhaps that’s the best reason for having Remembrance Day.
I think, if I had my way, I'd switch Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I'd put Veterans Day at the start of Summer and let people enjoy the living, while having Memorial Day in the beginning of Winter when things are dead and dying to honor those who have died. Perhaps, even rename it Remembrance Day.
After visiting the exhibit and returning home, I looked into Gallipoli a little more to get an understanding of why it was so difficult. I'd had the same problem studying the Gettysburg battle and understanding it from a map. Standing on the top of Little Round Top cleared any confusion. I was having the same issue about Gallipoli until I stumbled upon this website. It transposes pictures from the battlefield taken in 1915 with modern photographs taken earlier this year. It becomes much more clear why Lord Kitchner decided to evacuate almost immediately after seeing the battlefield. 100 years ago today. (The site seemed to work better in Chrome than Firefox or IE. )
One final point. Sarge has asked if I had any recommendation for a Blog Haka. I do.
"Ka Mate, Ka Mate! Ka Ora, Ka Ora!
"We may Die, We May Die! We May Live, We May Live!
It can be heard here..