A visit to Te Papa Museum to see the Gallipoli Exhibition was both wonderful and very sobering at the same time. It was Robin’s month to organise an outing with our SLG friends and he chose for us to go and see this exciting exhibition. Te Papa Museum and Weta Workshop joined together to mark the WW1 Centenary. The experiences of the ill fated eight month campaign at Gallipoli are shown through the eyes and diaries and letters of ordinary New Zealanders.
Our group rearranged the seating in the upstairs cafe for our “meet and greet” and a welcome cup of coffee. Some of us had travelled quite a distance, a drive of 100km from Levin to Wellington for us two, and our Wairarapa friends Anne and Les had travelled over the Rimutaka Hill from Featherston. No wonder we were all ready for a hot drink and a comfy sit-down. Luckily the long queues waiting to get into the exhibition were not in evidence when we arrived at the doors early on a weekday morning – a good reason to avoid the weekend.
Landing on the beach
The exhibition centres around eight marvellously lifelike models, in six tableaus, reproduced at 2.4 times human scale. Each figure weighs between 90kg and 150kg, and all eight took 24,000 hours to build and install. These models are based on real people who were in Gallipoli, and we heard words from their own letters read out and and shown on the darkened walls as we gazed in awe at the lifelike recreations.
Gallipoli was a brutal campaign, and is a part of our history which every Kiwi knows well. Not that we knew all the facts though, such as the severe deprivations, lack or water and food, that the men were covered in lice, or the fact that battle weary and deprived men were shot for falling asleep on duty. For eight long months they were fighting a loosing battle, at at long last, the evacuation order was received. The Anzac troops left silently in three groups in the darkness without lamps to light the way and no cigarettes were allowed to show the movement down the hills and onto the beach. Everyone wrapped their boots in sandbags to muffle the trudge of retreat. The survivors had safely left the beach, but were sad to be leaving the bodies of their mates behind.
There were interesting information boards to read, films to watch, and a sandbagged hut to sit in. It was an amazing exhibition, thought provoking and sad at the same time, and will be running for the next four years. Plenty of time for a repeat visit or two, and is well worth a trip to Wellington for those living out of town. Visitors were invited to write a message on a red poppy and place it at the feet of the last larger than life soldier in the exhibition.
After we had seen our fill of the exhibition, our group met for lunch at the busy downstairs cafe. With plenty of choice from soup, rolls and sandwiches, pies and chips, there was something for all tastes. With the sunshine flooding in through the large picture windows, we asked a friendly lady at the next table to take our photo.