‘Gallipoli’ is one of those words that evokes immense sadness, along with ‘Passchendaele’, ‘Ypres’, ‘the Somme’, all battles during The Great War that caused so much bloodshed, loss of life and heartache.
On a return visit to Te Papa, I enjoyed the Gallipoli exhibition. Neither ‘enjoyed’ nor ‘exhibition’ are quite the right words, but as the display itself demonstrated, there are no words strong enough to describe the horror.
Visitors are presented with stories told by survivors of the battle and from letters from some who subsequently paid the ultimate price.
There are warnings that some of the exhibits are quite graphic, Parental Guidance advised. And veterans are warned about the sound effects being realistic.
The stories are illustrated by larger-than-life size sculptures of soldiers and medics.
Despite the 2.4:1 ratio, they are very realistic. You can see every pore, every drop of sweat, every hair, every scar. Every tear drop.
The story is told of why Gallipoli was invaded, how the ANZACs were stranded for eight months, how the Turks were much better fighters than they’d been led to believe. Some very bad decisions made by some very safe people back at home. Aussies and Kiwis fought for ‘The Mother Land’. Maoris wanted to take part too and apart from a few tribes who didn’t fight at all, this was the first occasion in which all Maoris had come together to fight for the same cause.
I came out feeling slightly shell-shocked. I had a crick in my back from the slow walk around the exhibits. I was thirsty for a swig of water. But I felt so lucky to be here at all. My troubles are nothing compared with what those men and women had to put up with. Thoughts turned to my grandfathers who I’m sure fought in the first world war.
I would recommend Gallipoli: The Scale of our War to anyone who lives in or is visiting Wellington. Just take some tissues.
Outside the museum, people young and old were milling around in the sunshine and the hardest thing they had to do was decide which coffee bar to go to next.
I thought about going up to Mount Victoria Lookout, but as I’d taken much longer than anticipated, I went back to join Liesel who’d had a nice, quiet day at home.
When we were at Te Papa a few days ago, we knew it would be an emotional display to look at, so we decided to give it a miss. So why did I go back to the Gallipoli exhibition today? Well, yesterday, we’d visited Weta Workshop, the company responsible for many special effects and props in films such as the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
They are also responsible for the sculptures at the Gallipoli exhibition.
We arrived at Weta Cave to find that parking was limited. In the end, we were glad we parked closer to the venue than we’d been back at the b&b!
The tour of the workshop was very interesting. This is the sort of job both of us would love to do, if only we had the necessary skills and imagination.
There are 3D printers all over the place, bags of resin and other model-making material. I will be looking out for a particular object in all films during the next few years. One day, I’ll be able to say, “I was there when they were making that…” But I’m not allowed to tell you what.
I didn’t know until today that Weta are involved with the latest incarnation of one of my favourite childhood TV programmes. Thunderbirds are Go has been updated and instead of chain-smoking cigarettes, lady Penelope now strokes her pug. She has to keep her hands occupied.
It was a pleasure to fly Thunderbird 2 with Virgil Tracy. Something I’ve wanted to do for over 50 years!
We were botha bit creaky after all the slow walking inside, so we decided to spend some time sitting down indoors, for a change. We watched Mary, Queen of Scots at the cinema, along with about eight other people in the auditorium. The special effects were very good, especially Queen Elizabeth’s poxy face, but I don’t think Weta were involved. And we certainly learned some new history!
We like Wellington buses: they are more comfortable than taking the horse, faster than taking the tractor. Official.
The Te Aro Park mural in the city centre is painted by Princess Diana. It acknowledges the relationship between the seas and navigation, both so important to early occupiers of the area. No, not Princess Diana, but Diane Prince, the multi-media artist.
We made it up to Mount Victoria Lookout from where we could look out over the whole city and beyond, in all directions.
It was a little windy but it can be much windier here, thanks to the Cook Strait. The idea of ‘wind chill factor’ was developed by an American scientist, Paul Siple, and he is memorialised at this location.
And here’s Richard Byrd, looking south towards Antarctica: he was the first aviator to reach the south pole but his claim to have also reached the north pole is disputed.
We drove to Ata Rangi Vineyard where we had an errand to run. Better late than never, organising a birthday present for my oenophile daughter, Helen!
At the Rimutaka Crossing, we stopped briefly to gasp at the view.
And this war memorial is quite stunning too.
We drove over the pass, easy, but many hundreds of soldiers have marched over, in the past. And if it was as hot then as it was today, they would have been very hot and sticky.
In fact, the assistant at the vineyard told us it was 32°C today.
Liesel drove there and I drove back, and so we ended our final day in Wellington, at our place, eating, writing, listening to the radio, packing, tidying up. Tomorrow morning, we give Wellington the boot!
Meanwhile, in other news, little William is proud to be wearing his first pair of shoes.