National War Memorial (New Zealand), Picton | CruiseBe
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National War Memorial (New Zealand)

History and museums
sightseeing, attractions, culture, history, war memorial

The New Zealand National War Memorial is located next to the New Zealand Dominion Museum building on Buckle Street, in Wellington, the nation's capital. It was dedicated in 1932 on Anzac Day in commemoration of the First World War.

The memorial also officially remembers the New Zealanders who gave their lives in the South African War, World War II and the wars in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The War Memorial consists of the War Memorial Carillon, the Hall of Memories, and an unknown New Zealand warrior interred in a tomb constructed in 2004 in front of the Hall of Memories. Four Rolls of Honour bear the names and ranks of 28,654 New Zealanders. Lyndon Smith's bronze statue of a family group is the focal point for the complex, which is visited by approximately 20,000 people a year.

War Memorial Carillon

The National War Memorial Carillon was designed as a sister instrument to the 53-bell carillon at the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada.

The carillon bells were made in Croydon, England, by Gillett & Johnston, and arrived in New Zealand in January 1931.

At the time of dedication the 49 bells ranged from one weighing a shade more than 4 kg with a diameter of 170 mm and 140 mm high, up to one weighing 5 tonnes and measuring 2 m by 1.6 m. Their total weight was more than 30 tonnes and they cost £11,000.

The complex made considerable use of New Zealand stone. The carillon was clad with pinkish-brown Putaruru stone. Unfortunately the material was variable and weathered badly in places. It was removed from the carillon and replaced by Tākaka marble in 1982.

Since 1984 the Carillon has been substantially rebuilt and enlarged. Twenty mid-range bells have been replaced with 21 smaller treble bells and 4 large bass bells, extending the total range to 6 octaves. The Carillon currently has 74 bells, including the "Peace" bell, which, at 12.5 tonnes, is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The Carillon ranks as the third largest in the world by total weight.

Anzac Day and specific battle commemorations have special places in the annual schedule of events. The Carillon is played in over 200 hours of live concerts per year and a comprehensive domestic and international carillon teaching programme is conducted under the direction of the National Carillonist, Timothy Hurd.

Hall of Memories

The Hall of Memories is approached through an octagonal vestibule forming the base of the Carillon Tower. Inside there are six memorial alcoves on each side leading up to an apse and Sanctuary at the southern end of the Hall. These alcoves are designed as small side chapels dedicated to the different branches of the New Zealand Armed Forces that have served in overseas conflicts.

The entrance to the Sanctuary is flanked on either side by two white stone columns, each surmounted with a bronze orb and cross and engraved with the coats of arms of members of the Commonwealth whose forces served in World Wars I and II. These coats of arms are linked by stylised branches, representing the tree of the Commonwealth. On each of the two side walls of the Sanctuary a large cross forms the background for the coats of arms of the main towns of the nine provinces of New Zealand. These crosses symbolise the sacrifices made by New Zealanders in times of war.

Mounted to one side of the Sanctuary is the Lamp of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is dedicated to preserving the remembrance of the dead of all wars of all nations and to the unity within each nation of all war veterans' associations.

Four Rolls of Honour, inscribed with the name and rank of each fallen New Zealander, are placed in bronze display cases on the east and west walls of the Sanctuary.

The Hall of Memories is lined with cream Mt Somers stone. Inside, Hanmer marble, Coromandel granite and Tākaka marble are all used.

Unknown Warrior

To serve as a focus of remembrance for the sacrifice made by all New Zealand servicemen and women, in 2004 a project was undertaken to repatriate the body of an unknown warrior for burial in the new Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The Unknown Warrior is one of over 250,000 New Zealanders who served in overseas wars. He is one of 30,000 who died in service. He is one of over 9000 who have no known grave or whose remains could never be recovered. The remains were chosen by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, near where the New Zealand Division fought in 1916.

As the soldier's name, rank, regiment, race, religion and other details are unknown, he represents and honours all New Zealanders who became lost to their families in war.

On Monday 1 November a New Zealand delegation departed for France to begin the process of repatriating the remains of the Unknown Warrior. A handover ceremony took place on 6 November at the New Zealand Memorial site near the village of Longueval, France. The ceremony marked the official return of the Unknown Warrior from the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission into the care of New Zealand.

On return to New Zealand on Wednesday 10 November, the Unknown Warrior lay in state at Parliament. Thousands of New Zealanders attended the vigil to pay their respects. A memorial service was held on 11 November at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, followed by a Military Funeral Procession through central Wellington. More than 100,000 people lined the streets to the National War Memorial where an Interment Ceremony with full Military Honours took place.

The Warrior was finally laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on Thursday 11 November 2004, Armistice Day.

The Tomb is sealed with a bronze mantel bearing the words:

The Man with the Donkey

A bronze sculpture by Paul Walshe of Richard Alexander Henderson as "The Man with the Donkey" stands outside the National War Memorial. It is based on the photograph of Henderson taken at Gallipoli by James Gardiner Jackson on 12 May 1915, and is a "tribute to all medical personnel, stretcher bearers and ambulance drivers who served alongside New Zealand troops in wartime". Commissioned by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, it was unveiled by Henderson's son Ross in 1990.


In 1919 the Government voted £100,000 for a National War Memorial in Wellington .After considerable debate, it was agreed to build a complex that included a national art gallery, museum, and war memorial, including a carillon in the central suburb of Mt Cook. A competition was held in 1929 for plans for the war memorial, and for the Dominion Museum and the National Art Gallery immediately behind it. The competition was won by Messrs Gummer and Ford.

The inscription on the foundation stone reads:

Work was completed for an Anzac Day 1932 dedication when Governor-General Lord Bledisloe switched on the Lamp of Remembrance atop the tower and the Evening Post reported hearing 'magic from the skies'

Although the museum was opened in 1936, the planned Hall of Memories fell victim to first the Depression, then the Second World War. The first plans were prepared in 1937, and Gummer and Ford forwarded a new set in 1949, but the project did not go to tender until 1960. When tenders closed, the Christchurch firm of P Graham and Son (the same firm that built the carillon tower) was chosen, its tender being £114,000.

The hall of memories was officially opened by the Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, on 5 April 1964.

The Carillon's Putaruru stone had badly deteriorated by the late 1950s. Although repairs were approved as part of the Hall of Memories project, work did not finally begin until 1981-82. Among other things, a section of the campanile was replastered, Canaan marble replaced the Putaruru stone, and the metal louvres, window frames, and grilles were replaced.

In 1985 the Carillon, increased to 65 bells, was restored, ready for rededication in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II in the following year.

In 2004 the unknown New Zealand warrior was added; retired Army Colonel Andrew Renton-Green, who chairs the National War Memorial Advisory Council and the coordinating committee behind the tomb project, explains why it took so long:

National War Memorial Park Project

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage worked with the New Zealand Transport Agency to acquire land on Buckle Street, in front of the National War Memorial, to create a National Memorial Park. Buckle Street has been placed in a 'cut and cover' tunnel beneath the Park, allowing the Park (once constructed) to extend over the land above the tunnel as well as adjoining land.

This will not only improve the setting of the National War Memorial but will strengthen the heritage value of the entire area. The park will not be purely an open space. The design allows for the construction of memorials, particularly from countries that New Zealand has a close relationship with.

Work on the undergrounding of Buckle Street is complete, but work on the Park is still undergoing. It is expected that the Park will be completed by 2015, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.

$6 million has been allocated for the acquisition of land to create a National Memorial Park, with $2.5 million in 2006/07 for the costs of landscaping to create the memorial park after the current leases have expired.

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