NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Monumental: New Zealand’s First World War Memorials

18 April 2018

The sculpture atop Wellington's First World War memorial

On Anzac Day, New Zealand’s First World War memorials will be at the centre of commemorative events around the country.  They are also the focus of the latest campaign from WW100, Monumental.

“New Zealanders went to monumental lengths to remember those who served and died in the First World War,” says Sarah Davies, Director of the WW100 First World War Centenary Programme.

There are more than 500 public memorials across the country and many more in schools, churches and workplaces. They were created to remember the sacrifice of the 18,000 New Zealand soldiers and nurses who lost their lives, and the many tens of thousands more who served. 

“Anzac Day is a timely opportunity to encourage people to linger a little longer at these memorials, to spend a little time getting to know the names etched upon them and discover their stories,” says Davies.

The WW100 team have put together information to help people trace these individuals’ stories, but also the stories behind the memorials themselves.  

Historian Jock Phillips, a contributor to the Monumental campaign and author of To the Memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials, says these monuments offer an interesting insight into the beliefs and values of New Zealand communities in the years immediately following the war.

There was such a strong desire to find a way to remember those New Zealand soldiers and nurses who died in the war, nearly all of who were buried overseas in Europe and the Middle East.

“Family and friends wanted a sacred place nearby, a kind of surrogate tomb where they could visit and remember their loved ones,” Phillips says.

Community groups formed up and down the country to realise the memorials. The form, locations and inscriptions were all the subjects of much discussion as people considered how to adequately acknowledge such a monumental loss.   

“When you start looking at the memorials closely, they become fascinating. Almost all of them have something distinctive, it might be the inscription, it might be the way they were sculpted,” says Phillips.

All but one of New Zealand’s First World War memorials were the result of mammoth community fundraising efforts. People gave generously despite the hard times.

“This is arguably the largest act of cultural patronage that this society has ever seen. There has never been so many public works of art as in the memorials after the First World War,” Phillips says.

ENDS

For more information and to arrange interviews contact

Hannah Leahy, Senior Communications Advisor, WW100 Programme Office
Phone: 04 499 4229 (ext 630) or 027 628 4815
Email: hannah.leahy@ww100.govt.nz

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