Thursday, October 8, 2015

A visit to the Great War Exhibition

On the same day that we visited the Scale Of War exhibit at Te Papa we also went along to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson).

The staff at the Great War Exhibition went to great lengths to talk about the different way that they chose to talk about the differences between what you would see here, and at Te Papa. The focus here being more about the war as a whole, but with some exceptional coverage of Gallipoli at the end.

I didn't take as many photos as I'd liked to as the lighting was very mood enhancing (read dark) - but that means there wont be as many spoilers for when you go to look for yourself!

The Exhibition is inside the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, a short walk from the National War Memorial.
The first stop in the tour is a small Belgium village, where you can learn about the root causes behind the war, as well as set the scene for the rest of the visit.
A selection of weapons. Walking around there are plenty of examples of various weapons from machine-guns down to trench knives and fighting implements. Walking around there were plenty of things to stop and look at.
A cutaway of some defensive works. Opposite this was a model of a Big Bertha Howitzer (too large and too difficult to get a decent angle for a photo unfortunately).
Moving into the next room you are confronted by an artillery crew galloping at full speed, a converted bus moving troops around and a French biplane handing from the ceiling.

And just opposite were a selection of uniforms so you could see how different the armies looked at the beginning of the war.

Located around the exhibit were some really interesting little signs that talk about phrases from the Great War that are still in use today. There were quite a few that came as a complete surprise. This was one of them.
And by the sign about Bangers, a life size trench with soldiers going about their daily activity. One of the things I really enjoyed about the place was that there were very few physical barriers (other than glass cases) so you could get really close and even lean into the exhibits. Looking closely these men were lifelike enough that if they talked back to you, you would not have been surprised (shocked yes!).
Here a Mark I tank lumbers over a German trench line, underneath it German soldiers scramble to not be crushed. Nearby there were also a couple of small boxes that you could open to get a whiff of the various types of Gas used.
The next room had some examples of the use of camouflage. After this we ended the "Great War" section of the tour where you come across the final example of the human cost of the war where we see an old man, sitting on a bench with his grandchild, his arm lost during the war (and in an earlier part of the exhibit as it happens).
Moving on into the Gallipoli section of the exhibit we see walls covered in colourised photographs and stories from and about the men serving. Throughout the museum there were a lot of these photos, but it was here in the Gallipoli area that the walls were covered in them. Whilst I can understand why the Imperial War Museum (and others) guard these images so closely as the licensing of their use no doubt helps cover the cost of running their exhibits, it seems a shame in this digital age that they are so difficult to see unless there is something special like this.
British and German field artillery and machine-guns.

As a gamer this was the part I was really looking forward to this - 4,000 54mm figures painted by wargamers all around New Zealand, originally sculpted by the Perry Twins and installed on this massive diorama of Chunuk Bair. The scale of this was staggering and basically impossible to get a decent angle for a photograph to show the size. The figures though should give a good impression.
What really stood out to me were not just the lines of men charging up and down, attacking and counter attacking, but it was also the number of little vignettes in the middle of all the action. The one that I wished I had gotten a photo of was that of Cyril Bassett (who was to be awarded a VC for his actions) moving back and forth ensure that telephone lines were kept working.

The two Exhibits were very different in what they chose to focus on, and how they delivered the information. Each one had their strengths and weaknesses but together they provided an amazing way to spend an afternoon along with a much deeper appreciation of the events that happened so far and so long ago! I think the Te Papa exhibit was my favourite of the two as the 2.4x figures were just so amazing and I felt I probably absorbed more information there. However if you can make it to Wellington, just do it!

For a bit more information check out the Great War Exhibition website.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Visit to Te Papa and the Gallipoli; The Scale Of War

A couple of weeks ago a group of us ventured down to Wellington for a tournament, taking an extra day off work we headed to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson) and the National Museum (Te Papa) and their exhibition Gallipoli; The Scale Of War.

I had seen and heard a lot more about the Great War Exhibition as it features hundreds (thousands?) of figures sculpted by the Perry Twins and painted by gamers all across New Zealand. The Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa was something I knew very little about… Let me tell you, I was about to blown away!
Cool logo! I'd play a game that had a logo like that...
Walking through the doors and rounding the first corner you are confronted by Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott in 2.4-up scale! Yes, 2.4x their actual size. He (and his companions in the exhibit) dwarf those of us that walk around in awe. The detail is truly unbelievable and the work done by the team at Weta Workshop has to be seen to be believed.
The Lieutenant was one of the first Kiwis to land on Gallipoli and was shot in the arm whilst leading his men up a ridge. He was stretchered out that night. 'So ended the most glorious day of my life'.
Round the next corner we see Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick.
He arrived in the first hours of the attack and found himself treating casualties on the beach.
'Total to date: 5,000 casualties, about three men per yard of ground gained' - Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick.
Taking a break from the giant figures the next room is a lot more interactive with things to touch, watch and feel. A welcome break after the first two rooms. I didn't take many photos in here but I can never pass an opportunity to take a snap of a good diorama.
Both of these images are of Quinn's Post, literally a grenades throw away from the Turks. Chicken wire and an improvised roof covered the trench lines to stop unwanted visitors dropping in. The exhibit also had their first of two awesome 3-D maps with projectors underneath here showing the time lines for the invasion and subsequent attacks. Think about the old museum dioramas with lights that you could turn on and read about what happened, and then update that with 21st century technology.
Next up we are confronted by Private Jack (John) Dunn.
His face tells a story of a man that is broken, having been sick with pneumonia and returning to the front line still ill he would fall asleep at his post and be sentenced to death. Taking his illness and previous conduct into account he was sent back to the front line to fight.
I hear that todays MRE's are a bit of a mixed bag, but they sound like a picnic compared to this image. Leaving Jack there was a second interactive room where you could learn more about life in the trenches. From there you then proceed up a trench where you are bombarded with noise, the floor shaking under your feet and displayed on the wall are two more trench lines where Turkish and ANZAC troops carry on day to day activities, or fight to the death.
Leaving the trenches we find the Maori Machine-gun team of Private Colin Warden, Corporal Friday Hawkins and Private Rikihana Carkeek.
I feel very un-Kiwi saying this but I've never had an urge to travel to Gallipoli and much of it's history has been a mystery to me. Walking around this particular piece, reading about the events, the people and their actions I was surprising emotional. Perhaps it was the actions of these men (and so many more) putting all thoughts of their survival aside to help the man next to them, or maybe it was the culmination of everything I'd seen up to this point. Maybe it was just the scale of what stood in front of me!
On the final stretch we come across Staff Nurse Lottie (Charlotte) Le Gallais. She was a military nurse stationed on the hospital ship Maheno. Here she finds out that her brother Leddie had been killed at Gallipoli, her letters returned with a black stamp that read: 'Killed, return to sender'.
The next room contained a model of the hospital ship and then prepared the way for the final figure...
Sergeant Cecil Malthus on the Western Front.
The exhibit was really focused on the events of Gallipoli. It was appropriate given its place in our history but it was a little disappointing that the Sergeant Malthus was the only real nod to the contribution of New Zealand Service men and women outside of this campaign.
It was a pretty powerful 'nod' though, standing tall with his feet surrounded by red poppies.

For a whole lot more images and information check out the official Te Papa website...

Next week I'll have some images from the Great War Exhibition.