Clark backs plan to collect WWI stories

By Angela Gregory

Oral records relating to memories of World War I are being gathered around New Zealand "before it is too late" in preparation for the centenary of Armistice Day, says the Prime Minister.

Helen Clark yesterday drew attention to the collection of oral histories from that time during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Armistice Day marks the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when hostilities ceased on the Western Front with the signing of the Armistice.

In a short speech, Helen Clark said a centennial project for 2018 included the gathering of oral histories from New Zealanders still able to remember the war and its end.

In one such anecdote a woman described how she was 6 years old when the Armistice was declared.

"At the end of her street was a blacksmith ... He climbed up to the firebell and rang it endlessly ... It just rang and rang and rang."

The girl had been really excited and recalled her mother playing God Save the King on the piano, but she could not understand why her mother was crying.

The Prime Minister said World War I was one of the most traumatic events the world had known.

New Zealand had sent 100,000 troops to fight in the war.

Of those, 18,000 had died and 50,000 were seriously injured.

Armistice Day reminded New Zealanders of those who suffered and was a time for reflection on the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives, she said.

Wreath-laying ceremonies to mark Armistice Day were carried out at many other war memorials throughout New Zealand.

Two minutes of silence were observed in memory of New Zealand's war dead.

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