C'était fantastique de rencontrer tous les jeunes ambassadeurs du jeudi et maintenant je suis encore plus excité de représenter la Nouvelle-Zélande en France.
Over the last month my project has picked up pace and I have learned a lot in regards to my topic of the recognition of war and the role of the media. This was heavily boosted by the day we spent in Wellington and I have now three key developments I want to share.
The first involves our visit to the New Zealand portrait Gallery in Wellington where we were fantastically guided by curator Gavin McLean around the exhibition; Facing the Front: New Zealand’s Enduring First World War. The exhibition was very interesting particularly for me as it recognised not only those who had fought in the war, but also the historians who had moulded the New Zealand perspective on the war causing it to evolve. This ties in well with my project as in my previous blog I looked at the double nature of remembrance. This was highlighted in the exhibition with the inclusion of the portrait of John A Lee. This historian was renowned for being the first to truly highlight the gruesome nature of war in literature, as he would painstakingly describe a rotting corpse. This form of media heavily contrasted another portrait found in the exhibition of Lieutenant-Commander William Sanders. The portrait depicts a well-groomed man in pristine uniform, presenting the glamorous side of war. These two sides clearly show the different ways one can look back on war. Once again I would like to thank Gavin McLean for his interesting and impressive tour of his exhibition.
Secondly, I have recently started reading Damien Fenton’s, “New Zealand and the First World War 1914-1919”. This recently published book created in association with WW100 acts as an overview of New Zealand’s involvement in the war and although I have just begun reading through it, it is beautifully put together and is highly effective in honouring those who fought for New Zealand.
Lastly, a few weeks ago I went to The Auckland War Memorial Museum and two quotes on the wall caught my attention,
“Remember,” he said,
“When you go ashore you are not heroes.
The heroes lie in France”
-William Taylor recalling the final words of Colonel Evans before New Zealand troops disembarked at Wellington
These lines highlight for me a soldier’s perspective on the public reaction to World war One. This relates to my last blog where I stated there was a gap in remembrance between those who had died and those who had returned traumatized. It was easy for the public to erect memorials and this was a great way of creating a lasting legacy. But for those who had returned, they were disconnected from society.
“…I went home to a father, mother and four sisters and no one ever asked what it was like. For seventy years no one asked me what it was like.”
-Cecil Burgess, Wellington Infantry
These recent discoveries have motivated me even further to pursue my project as I prepare for our trip to France in under a month. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences further through Shared Histories and the community.