This Anzac Day Elisabeth Easther looks at ways to help youngsters learn more about how the war affected their ancestors.
Both of my grandfathers fought at Gallipoli so, for my family, Anzac Day is an especially important date. Neither man spoke a lot about their experiences but we were all aware they saw and did things most of us, thankfully, will never have to confront. When I lived in Turkey, I spent a weekend wandering the battlefields.
I wanted to instil in my own son the importance of the day, and why it's important for his generation to remember the heroes who fought for us, I took him on a tour of some of Auckland's war experiences.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
We took a trip to the Auckland War Memorial Museum ahead of this weekend's launch of Gallipoli in Minecraft, a pretty unusual exhibition that mashes Gallipoli with the interactive world of Minecraft, an open-world game which allows players to create and build using 3D textured boxes. Over the past year, students from Manukau's Alfriston College have undertaken the project and established 1915 Gallipoli in a virtual Minecraft world, providing a platform for players to recreate events and explore significant areas.
When you see your child get hands-on with one of the consoles as they move around the world, you're immediately struck by the scale of the battlefields, the proximity of the troops and fortifications of both sides. Within the virtual world you find yourself confronted by the real tools and personal items of the past.
Families can discuss the campaign and war using the timeline, which can spark really interesting conversations between generations.
This weekend we can also watch the Illuminate programme -- specially curated parts of TVNZ's first world war drama series, When We Go to War -- projected on to the north face of the museum. There will also be rarely seen photographs from the museum's new book, The Anzacs. Commemorations this weekend also include choirs, dance, poppy badge-making and a range of guided tours.
Download the Gallipoli in Minecraft world from today at aucklandmuseum.com.
Anzac Experience at Motat
This weekend Motat focuses on the the crucial wartime role played by written correspondence, with poignant and heartbreaking accounts of life at the front (and back home) glimpsed through letters. There's something so much more tangible about handwritten letters that have made their way around the world, compared to the ephemeral nature of today's emails, texts and snapchat.
Personal items belonging to Anzacs Edward Fuller and William Relph include photos, Christmas cards, postcards, letters and maps so that we can imagine more fully what life during war might have been like. Among these treasures, visitors will find the original version of Relph's leave pass document (dated August 7, 1917) which declares him to be "free from both vermin and scabies".
Kids can also write their own wartime letter or postcard, and share thoughts and feelings on the memory boards. The museum's Regent Street is transformed to resemble wartime New Zealand, and for those keen to enlist, there is a recruitment office in operation.
While you are there, check out the permanent exhibition While You Were Away, an exploration of the impact both the world wars have had on New Zealand.
Veterans and active servicemen and women have free entry over the long weekend.
Opening hours 10am-5pm.
With the help of Auckland Council's WW100 Heritage Trail brochure, we decided it was time to check out some of the region's military memorials. There are over 900, so here are a few we liked:
Motuihe Island Internment Camp
Motuihe Island, in the Hauraki Gulf between Waiheke and Motutapu, is renowned for its beautiful beaches, blossoming wildlife, native trees and extensive walking tracks. But it's not just a pretty place to visit, it is also home to a former WWI internment camp. German prisoners of war were confined to the island, among them Commander Count Felix Von Luckner who was captured and sent to the island with some of his crew. There isn't much left in the way of physical evidence but there are some interesting information panels about von Luckner and the camp.
Manukau Gardens Cemetery
The newest war memorial, at the Manukau RSA Memorial Gardens, has three distinct areas set aside for commemoration, remembrance and education. A series of statues stand for the various branches of the armed forces and the nursing services, while words and pictures inside the four granite panels tell the stories of veterans who saw active duty.
Corner Roscommon Rd (SH20B) and Puhinui Rd (SH20), Papatoetoe.
Otahuhu First World War Memorial
We decided that the bronze figure of a New Zealand Mounted Rifleman in Otahuhu is one of the most imposing memorials. Donated to the borough by a local businessman, it was unveiled by Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson on Anzac Day 1928. Look for a plinth near the Nixon Memorial, corner of Great South and Massey Roads.
Spragg Monument at Kaitarakihi
This is a heartbreaking memorial by the Spragg family to remember their son Wesley who was lost in the war. The four-sided granite obelisk on a base of volcanic boulders was unveiled in 1920 dedicated to Wesley and "all of the boys who laid down their lives". Kaitarakihi Park, Waitakere Ranges, between Cornwallis and Huia.
Howick War Memorial, Stockade Hill
Howick and Pakuranga's marble obelisk memorial on Stockade Hill was unveiled Governor-General Lord Bledisloe in 1921. It bears the names of 29 men and one woman who gave their lives - an incredible number for what would have been a small town then. The names of a further 19 local men were added after World War II.
Stockade Hill, Mellons Bay Road, Howick.
Papatoetoe RSA - Learning Your Stripes
Our favourite was one of the more novel memorials, the colourful artwork on the side of the Papatoetoe RSA building.
The striped mural by Regan Gentry shows the military service ribbon order of precedence, aptly titled Learning Your Stripes. Beautiful and elegant, it's also imbued with rich meaning.
Check out the list of public memorials on the website of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage here.
Auckland Council's First World War heritage trail of 56 sites from Wellsford to Waiuku brochure is available from the library or council offices, or download from aucklandcouncil.govt.nz (search ww100 heritage).
Download the free STQRY smartphone app from iTunes and use QR codes along the trail for more information about each site.
Poppies in gold
New Zealand artist Max Gimblett has joined forces with St David's Church (near the top of Khyber Pass Rd) to form a shimmering, golden tribute. The trust for the church, known as the "soldiers' church" since it was built in 1927 in remembrance of the war, commissioned Gimblett to create his signature quatrefoil in pure brass. Thousands of these Gimblett artworks will be attached to the facade. People can purchase one of the pieces, hand painted ink works printed on brass, for $100.
Remember Them project organiser Paul Baragwanath calls this the South Pacific version of the nearly a million red ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London, that were sold around the world to raise millions of pounds for charities. Funds from the Gimblett sales will be used to restore St David's, one of the oldest war memorials in the country.