National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Upper Gallery

Upper Gallery

Memorial Area: Tears On Greenstone

Tears On Greenstone – Roimata Pounamu is the largest Jade (Nephrite) structure in the Southern Hemisphere

This overwhelming memorial wall stands sentry to the Museum proper and commemorates all New Zealanders lost in conflict. A veil of water descends from its towering height. Symbolising tears of mourning and renewed life, as it flows down the greenstone face, voices through speakers echo continuously reading in alphabetical order, the names of the fallen. This reading of the names is combined with special songs (Waiata) and prayers (Karakia).

At the wall, a touch screen computer enables visitors to search for information on lost family or friends, they can select and hear the name read from speakers for their own special moment of remembrance and if they wish, obtain a Memorial Certificate as a memento of their visit.

The New Zealand Wars

When fighting the European, the Maori traditional way of fighting with clubbing weapons such as Taiaha and Patu was ineffective against a disciplined bayonet charge and concentrated fire power, so the Maori adapted European systems designed to fight on more equal terms. They built pa systems containing bunkers to protect themselves from shellfire from guns such as this one and to break up the disciplined advance.

The northern wars were fought over sovereignty and consisted of four main battles including Hone Heke’s chopping down the flagpole at Kororareka (now known as Russell).

Further wars were fought in the 1850s and 1860s over land issues in the Waiarapa, Taranaki and the Waikato. Some Maori fought on the side of the British Crown. Those Maori hostile to the Crown won some of the battles but the Imperial and locally raised troops kept on advancing and eventually won the war by occupying the land, and exhausting the enemy into surrender.

Anglo-Boer War

New Zealand’s first overseas war was the Second South African War, sometimes also called the Boer War. British officials created the war to gain control of the gold and diamonds deposits in Transvaal. NZ decided to help fight for the Empire and sent 6500 mounted troops to assist the British efforts. Virtually every man in NZ was desperately keen to get to war so the first soldiers to go were selected on the basis of who could afford to go. If you could provide your own horse, rifle and equipment – such as this gentleman is wearing here – to the tune of about 25 pounds then you could go to war. The first two of the 10 contingents paid their own way.

Gallipoli

New Zealand raised a force to fight in Europe and sent a brigade of mounted riflemen and a brigade of infantry, which after meeting up with the Australians, was diverted to Egypt. These colonial troops from Australia and New Zealand were thought to be inferior soldiers, so when an operation was planned to take the Gallipoli peninsula, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC’s) was chosen to take part in the diversionary attack halfway up the peninsula. The idea was to free up the Dardanelles so ships could get through to the Russian ports.

The New Zealand Infantry Brigade landed after the Australians on the morning of 25 April 1915 at ANZAC Cove. They were supposed to have been landed two kilometres south where the land was flat, but a navigational error put them ashore where gorse choked gullies and steep hills made the attack very difficult. The New Zealand and Australian positions eventually ran along the line of Pope’s Hill, Quinn’s Post, Courtney’s Post with the Turkish positions sometimes only a few metres away.

After several months of fighting the New Zealanders took Chunuk Bair, the dominant feature at the rear, and held it for two days before Turkish counter attacks threw the British reinforcements off the hill.

The entire position was evacuated after terrible casualties to both sides in the eight months of fighting. The New Zealand casualty rate was 87% of the soldiers who fought. Far from being inferior soldiers, the New Zealand and Australian troops proved themselves to be some of the best fighting soldiers in the Empire. The day of the landings, Anzac Day, 25 April has become the day of remembrance for Australian and New Zealand casualties of war.

Western Front

The New Zealand Infantry Division was sent to Belgium where they moved into the trenches opposite the Germans. They fought in many of the major battles in Belgium and France including the First Somme, Third Ypres (Passchendaele), Messines, and the Second Somme.

The dominant weapon of World War I was the artillery gun. The 18 Pounder was the standard light British and New Zealand Field Artillery piece of WW I. The other weapon which contributed to the stalemate of trench warfare was the machine gun.

The troops would spend eight days in a trench like this in truly appalling conditions. They would then spend the next eight days in billets behind the lines before moving back into the trenches again.