I took the opportunity to visit the fantastic Gallipoli display at Wellington's Te Papa museum. A huge promotional sign stands high inside the entrance to Te Papa and immediately catches your eye on entering. It reads "GALLIPOLI THE SCALE OF OUR WAR" and that's exactly what Te Papa delivers as you meander through the museum display. Giant life like models of Gallipoli veterans are placed throughout the museum representing a known digger or a nurse who served at Gallipoli.
Designers and engineers (Weta Workshops) who made the models should be commended for their professional contribution in meticulously making the large models and displays.
Fine details such as individual hairs being threaded onto the hands, arms, and legs of the model diggers including the making of realistic tears that stream from the eyes down the cheeks of a nurse (staff nurse Lotte Le Gallais ) make the model displays almost real.
A large model of an army officer Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick (field surgeon) leaning over a dead soldier Jack Aitken holding a set of dog tags caught my eye. I stood close by the model to get a feel for what the officer maybe thinking as he looked down on the dead soldier. On looking into his face I can could imagine the trauma he faced whilst thinking about the soldiers, by the hundreds, left to die, dead or already rotting on the battlefield.
A digger sits, staring , contemplating and about to eat a can of bully beef in the field. Life like flies sit on top of the opened can and a biscuit spread with bully beef in hand beckons to be eaten... flies and all.
The crowd gathers (young children as well) around a mud map model (incorporating lights and audio) of the Anzac Battlefields. The model shows hundreds of boats landing ashore and details of diggers going into battle to Chunuk Bair, Sari Bair, Battle of Hill 360, Lone Pine, Krinthia, and The Nek.
Other displays such as a documentary of the battles in 3D is shown, miniature models of gun pits, and a walk through a real life gun pit with video clips flashing either side of tunnel showing Turkish and Anzac diggers running through gave me the feeling of actually being in the tunnels with them.
Visitors are able to stand behind a wall of sandbags look through a home made periscope with a rifle attached above, view Turkish soldier in the distance, push a button to fire a shot off, and hear the sound of the shot as it leaves the gun barrel.
When it comes to World War 1 exhibitions, Wellington has two comprehensive displays that owe a huge debt to Sir Peter Jackson (Producer of Lord of The Rings) and his Weta Workshops for the fantastic real life displays at Te Papa museum and further downtown Wellington.
It's worth hopping on a plane to Wellington NZ just to visit the museum and get a feel for the trenches, certainly as realistic as Hollywood Award winner Sir Peter Jackson could make it to appeal to the visitors coming there.
Nine Australians Won the VC at Gallipoli;
Lance Corporal Albert Jacka (14 Btn) at Courtney's Post, 19-20 May 1915.
Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor (1 Btn) at Lone Pine, 7-8 August 1915.
Lieutenant William Symons (7 Btn) at Lone Pine, 8-9 August, 1915.
Corporal Alexander Burton (7 Btn) at Lone Pine, 9 August, 1915.
Corporal William Dunstan (7 Btn) at Lone Pine, 9 August, 1915.
Private John Hamilton (3 Btn) at Lone Pine, 9 August, 1915.
Captain Alfred Shout (1 Btn) at Lone Pine, 9 August, 1915.
Lieutenant Frederick Tubb (7 Btn) at Lone Pine, 9 August 1915.
Lieutenant Hugo Throssel (10 Light Horse) at Hill 60, 29-30 August 1915
One Australian VC recipient who grew tired of the adulation he received upon his return home wounded from Gallipoli was Corporal William Dunstan. He disliked the civic receptions he was forced to attend given in his honour and finally spoke his mind when he heard that a memorial fund was to be opened to collect money for him. In a letter to the press he declined this money claiming he was lucky to be able to return home to such accolades while the actions of others went unnoticed.
A New Zealander who won the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli was Lieutenant Colonel Cyrill Basset.
Cyril Bassett was the first and only New Zealand serviceman to win a VC during the First World War. He did so for distinguished conduct during the August 1915 offensive at Gallipoli. During the ferocious battle for Chunuk Bair, he and a handful of companions laid and repaired a telephone wire to the front line in full daylight and under heavy fire. Bassett’s decoration was the only VC awarded to a 1NZEF soldier during the Gallipoli campaign.
Truck Sams TLRH at Te Papa museum Wellington New Zealand