Last week I was privileged enough to be invited to attend the national World War I Armistice Commemoration in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

This moving commemoration was attended by about 3500 people all of whom had come together to pay their respect to those who lost their lives in World War I, and to remember and recapture the spirit on the day 100 years ago.

Both the governor-general and the prime minister acknowledged the sacrifices made, the impact on our nation and the ongoing legacy of the war.

Excerpts were read from personal letters and journals of the time, there were fitting songs and performances and, of course, two minutes silence.


Following this was the 'roaring chorus' meant to represent both the sorrow and celebrations that happened at the end of the war. However, the mood of the audience in Wellington was solemn and respectful, they did not clap or cheer, they came to commemorate.

Meanwhile, at MTG Hawke's Bay we observed two minutes silence, which all our visitors respectfully observed, knowing that the main commemorations were being led by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Associations around the region.

Our educators delivered many programmes at the start of the WWI centenary, alongside our WWI exhibition From The Uttermost Ends of the Earth: Hawke's Bay at War 1914-1918.

In the lead up to the 100th commemoration we ran another special school programme, this time focused on Armistice Day.

During the programme children developed a short freeze-frame drama based on the letters of Trooper Percy Manson, from Hawke's Bay.

At the age of 23 Percy was killed in action on of March 30, 1919, with the New Zealand Brigade advancing over 1500 yards of exposed ground to assault the first Turkish Trench on Hill 3039 in Amman.

Originally buried on Hill 3039, Percy was later re-interred at the Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery in Syria. The students were filmed creating their dramas so they could share this work and Percy's story with family and fellow students.

Following this work there was an interactive element with children selecting a battlefront and then choosing from a list of items those they thought would help them survive.


During this activity the children learnt whether the items they had chosen helped them survive, whether their soldier was injured or killed and whether they returned home.

Doing this in an interactive way brought home to a new generation the scale of fatalities suffered during WWI.

One of my predecessors and the first director of the Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery, Leo Bestall, was a returned soldier from World War I.

Leo served in the New Zealand Medical Corps and was one of the lucky ones who came home. The Medical Corps had to navigate no-man's-land to rescue the injured from the battlefield – a very dangerous job indeed.

His story, and those of the thousands of others who did not return home, will not be forgotten.

* FAFSWAG: code switch exhibition. Opens Saturday, November 17. Free entry, all welcome.

* New Zealand artist Ariki Brightwell will be painting a large mural in our front foyer from November 17-21. Come in and watch her work. Free entry, all welcome.

* Show Me Shorts – The Sampler (NZ International Short Film Festival). Sunday, November 18 at 2pm in the MTG Century Theatre. Tickets can be purchased from the MTG reception or the Box Office in the Century Theatre foyer half an hour prior to screening.