Saturday, 7 November 2015

Gallipoli animated feature film '25 April'

25 April is an innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli to life for a modern audience through a re-imagined world.

Using graphic novel-like animation, 25 April brings First World War experiences out of the usual black-and-white archive pictures and into vibrant, dynamic color.

Weaving together animated "interviews" based on the diaries, letters and memoirs of six people who were actually there, the film tells the compelling and heart-wrenching tale of war, friendship, loss and redemption using the words of those who experienced it.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A late article about painting figures for the Chunuk Bair diorama

In our round-up of articles during the development of the Chunuk Bair diorama, we somehow missed this item in the April newsletter of the Wellington Branch of the International Plastic Modellers Society (Wellington branch) newsletter [PDF 3.3MB].

In a well-written article starting on page 8 of this newsletter, Richard Alexander relates how he painted sixteen figures for the diorama. He describes the unusual technique he used for painting the figures using an airbrush.

One of Richard's figures is the saluting officer in the command dugout at The Apex.

Friday, 7 August 2015

One hundred years tomorrow since Chunuk Bair

Tomorrow marks exactly one hundred years ago that the events portrayed in our diorama actually took place.

The national ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle for Chunuk Bair will take place at 4pm tomorrow at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

There will be readings, choral interludes, wreaths will be laid at Tomb of the Unknown Warrior honouring the fallen from New Zealand battalions, and the ceremony will be concluded with a playing of the Last Post.

Order of Service 

Karanga by June Jackson MNZM
Whakamaharatanga, the Remembrance Bell, is tolled four times as members of the Official Party pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior


The Honourable Maggie Barry ONZM
Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage

Rear Admiral David Ledson ONZM (Rtd)
Chair, National War Memorial Advisory Council

The Honourable Chris Finlayson

Chilton St James School Seraphim Choir performs “Ma Te Atua”


Bill Nathan delivers a reading to mark the participation of Maori troops at Chunuk Bair, in battle for the first time under the New Zealand flag

Seraphim Choir performs “Po Atarau”

Aziz Sevi, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Turkey.






"We will remember them" is played by Piper Flight Sergeant Murray Mansfield RNZAF




The RNZAF Band plays “Nightfall in Camp”, including “The Last Post”.
All uniformed personnel salute
The flags of New Zealand and the Republic of Turkey are lowered


The Principal Defence Chaplain concludes the ceremony

Diorama in 'Toy Soldier and Model Figure' magazine

The September issue of Toy Soldier and Model Figure magazine features a photo article about our diorama.

Below is one of the many fabulous pictures featured in the magazine.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The very best pics of the massive Chunuk Bair diorama

Whilst we've previously posted quite a few photos of the diorama of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, we've saved the very best shots until last!

We had agreed to withhold these photos until after Wargames Illustrated published a photo-article about this project.

Now that this article is in their August issue, we can at last show you these amazing shots taken by Andy Palmer. Some of these pictures appear in the article, but others are exclusive to this blog.

We strongly suggest you click on each photo to enlarge and get the full effect of these amazing pictures.

This picture of Michael Perry and some Weta Workshop staff during the production of the diorama gives a hint of its sheer size, even though you still can't see it all here. Michael is working on The Apex in the foreground, the two staff in the middle distance are sitting at The Pinnacle, and way off in the distance two other staff are populating the trenches on Chunuk Bair itself.

A Weta Workshop staff member carefully applies some finishing touches to the diorama. Before the final lighting was fitted, the modellers had to work in dusk-like conditions.

The first part of the diorama that visitors see is The Apex, which includes the command dugout, the amassing Anzac reinforcements, and resting survivors of previous assaults on Chunuk Bair.

Here's a closer view of the command dugout. Two points of interest are the telephone wire snaking out at the left (more about this wire in a picture further down), and the despondent and likely drunken Brigadier Johnston sitting with his head in his hands (there's a humorous story about this particular miniature in the Wargames Illustrated article).

Making their way up The Apex are the Auckland Mounted Rifles, part of the reserves moving forward to reinforce the summit.

Sir Peter Jackson is of course well-known for making cameo appearances in his movies, and it is no different with this diorama. Here you can see him as a battlefield photographer at The Apex.

Along the crest of The Apex are situated the massed New Zealand machine gunners, under the command of Major Jesse Wallingford (standing centre left).

The massed New Zealand machine guns wreak havoc on the flank of the Turks counter-attacking Chunuk Bair from their trenches on Battleship Hill.

Forward of The Apex along Rhododendron Ridge is The Pinnacle, where survivors of a previous assault on Chunuk Bair by the Auckland Infantry huddle in an abandoned trench or dig in to protect themselves as best they can.

Beyond The Pinnacle, members of the Maori Contingent push forward, but are forced by heavy Turkish fire down the left of the ridge towards The Farm. In this picture you can see the different levels of painting styles, colours and skills, and how they all meld together into a homogeneous whole.

Halfway up the slope of Chunuk Bair is the lonely figure of Corporal Cyril Bassett dragging the telephone wire that we first encountered in the earlier picture of Brigadier Johnston's command dugout. For his brave actions in opening and maintaining communications, Bassett was awarded the Victoria Cross.

This may be the most amazing photo of the lot, in a terribly sad and poignant way. It shows hundreds of wounded New Zealanders and British gathering in a sun-scorched valley beneath the summit of Chunuk Bair, where many lay unattended for days. If nothing else brings home the horror of this battle, this picture does. Even Corporal Bassett's telephone line can be seen snagging on the casualties, as it actually did.
Just beneath the trenches on top of  Chunuk Bair is Lt Col William Malone's little command trench. He led the Wellington Infantry to capture the Turkish trenches almost unopposed before dawn, and then commanded the desperate efforts to hold Chunuk Bair against the massed counter-attacks. He was eventually killed by friendly fire from artillery or a ship. To the left you can see some British infantry beginning to fall back, a few being forced to rally at gunpoint.

On top of Chunuk Bair, we see one of the many charges by Turkish infantry, as they attempt to wrest back control of the captured trench.

Another shot of the Turkish counter-attack. You can even see hand-to-hand combat occurring in the trench. Also note the blood - Sir Peter Jackson had read many first-hand accounts of how bloody the battlefield became, and so he wanted the team to not spare on adding blood to the diorama.

New Zealanders rush along the line to reinforce fighting further along the line. The grey-haired chap in the middle is a special model that the Perry twins sculpted of the author. Though how many soldiers at Gallipoli were actually old enough to have grey hair ...?

Here's another rush of Turks towards the New Zealand position. Again, see how the various shades of the Turkish uniforms work really well to give a ragged campaign look.

You can see the difficulties of the New Zealanders in their trenches (top) as they face waves of Turkish counter-attacks, let alone enfilading fire from Battleship Hill and Hill Q on each side.

The cost of battle - a wounded Turkish soldier is escorted back down the hill.

Two unfortunate Turkish soldiers in a heart-wrenching little vignette.

A New Zealander is shot. The volunteer painters found painting the hundreds of wounded figures a very emotional task.

Another look at this amazing but horrible shot. If you haven't enlarged any other of these pictures by clicking on them, you've just got to enlarge this one - never in any diorama have we seen the cost and horror of battle so dramatically conveyed.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's coming ... 'Wargames Illustrated's' forthcoming article on our diorama

The August issue of Wargames Ilustrated, featuring a 10-page photospread and article on the building of the Chunuk Bair diorama, is just round the corner!  Keep an eye out for it ...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

New book on Lt Col Malone - Gallipoli's 'Man of Iron'

Everyone working on the Chunuk Bair diorama would have quickly become aware of one of the great characters of that battle, Lt Col William Malone, commanding officer of the Wellington Infantry Battalion.

Well, in a couple of months the first biography of Malone to be written, is due to be launched: Man of Iron by Jock Vennell

From the Allen and Unwin (publisher's) website:
Man of Iron, by Jock Vennell, the first biography of one of New Zealand's best known First World War soldiers.
Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone is one of New Zealand's best-known First World War soldiers, having held off fierce Turkish counter-attacks for nearly two days before being killed by a shell from a British warship. The defence of Chunuk Bair has been described as one of New Zealand's finest hours. Malone and his men captured and held the heights of Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula in August 1915.
William Malone was not only an outstanding military leader, as commander of the Wellington Infantry Battalion, but also a successful farmer, lawyer and family man. His letters reveal a man unfulfilled by peacetime pursuits, and war offered him a liberation of spirit and a new sense of purpose. Leaving for the front, he wrote, 'I leave a lucrative practice, a happy home, a brave wife and children without any hesitation. I feel I am just beginning to live.'

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Historian/author's impressions and photos of the Chunuk Bair diorama

Historian and author Matthew Wright has posted his impressions of the Chunuk Bair diorama on his blog today. His posting includes some great photographs, too.

Peter Jackson’s re-definition of awesome – the Gallipoli diorama, close up 

 by Matthew Wright
Last weekend I visited Sir Peter Jackson’s giant diorama of New Zealand’s attack on Chunuk Bair at the height of the Gallipoli campaign in August 1915. Giant? You betcha. With 5000 custom-posed 54-mm figures, individually painted by volunteer wargamers from around New Zealand, the only word is wow! Read more ...
One of Matthew's books, Shattered Glory (Penguin 2010), is about New Zealand's human experience during two First World War campaigns, including Gallipoli, "exploring the darker side of New Zealand's iconic symbols of national identity and explaining some of the realities behind the twenty-first century mythology".

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Father and son bonding at Waterloo

It’s 200 years today since the Battle of Waterloo. It’s therefore apt to post this link to my 2012 article about myself and my son’s experience ten years ago at the 2005 reenactment of Waterloo.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Taiwanese military history mag features Chunuk Bair diorama

Our Chunuk Bair diorama is the subject of an article in the latest issue to the Taiwanese magazine Illustrated Guide for Weapons & Tactics (Chinese: 中國之翼.兵器戰術圖解~ 軍事圖書.雜誌專賣店). This is one of the main periodicals about military issues and war history in Taiwan. 

Recently they've been covering some history of the Great War, for example about the Ottoman armed forces and their efforts during WWI, to show their Taiwanese readers a broader view of the Great War than the trench warfare of the Western Front. So when the editor stumbled across pictures of our diorama, he contacted us about running some photos in his magazine, and telling the story of Gallipoli and the armed forces of both sides.

Here is the front cover of the magazine.  The red text near the top describes this issue's special feature. These Chinese characters literally mean "The 'Lord of the Rings' Style Gallipoli Battlefield", but a more accurate meaning might be "The Gallipoli Campaign Diorama Created by (the Idea from) the Team of 'Lord of the Rings'".

As you can see from the pictures on the Contents page, the magazine covers a wide range of topics. Our article occupies a chunk of pages near the middle.

One of the pages includes a picture of volunteer painter Vicky Bleaken at work on her batch of figures. When he noticed the Humbrol cans on her table, the editor wrote, "some modellers of the Commonwealth still use this great British brand enamel paint!"

Overall. it is wonderful to see the continuing international attention our diorama of Chunuk Bair is attaining.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Mini-diorama at Kapiti Wargames Club open day

This display of the left-over figures from our Chunuk Bair diorama was set up at today's open day of the Kapiti Wargames Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

The Kapiti club were heavily involved in the team of volunteer painters for the diorama project, especially in the final throes as the opening day loomed ever closer.

So when the club asked if they could borrow some of the reserve figures being held by The Great War Exhibition, the request was granted with pleasure.

Club president Sam Campbell quickly put together a rugged terrain board for the loaned figures to fight over. The resulting mini-diorama was a real crowd-pleaser at the open day.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Teaser for 'Wargames Illustrated' article on Chunuk Bair diorama

The first inkling of the much-anticipated Wargames Illustated article about our Chunuk Bair diorama has just appeared on their FaceBook page.

This article to be published in their August issue will feature not only some of the great pics we've already seen here on the Mustering The Troops blog, but also some amazing professional photographs that have been held back especially.

On their FaceBook page, Wargames Illustrated have released a small teaser picture of the opening spread of what is going to be a ten-page article. Using one photo splashed across both pages looks pretty impressive, even at the small size of the picture they've released!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

'Gallipoli: the Scale of our War' at Te Papa, Wellington

This morning I visited for the first time our brother exhibition, Gallipoli: the Scale of our War at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand in Wellington. This ground-breaking display was created by Te Papa working closely with Weta Workshop.

I only had my old phone with me to take photos, but hopefully the following pics will give you a taste of what this exhibition is all about. 

Being a holiday weekend, the queue to get in was quite long. It took about an hour, snaking backwards and forwards like a ride at Disneyland. The exhibition only has capacity for 350 visitors, and they space them out in groups so there is room for everyone to easily see the displays. The staff told me that during the week there are often no queues at all, but weekends are busy, especially holiday weekends.

On entering the exhibition, the first sight that greets you is this amazing larger-than-life model of Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott. He led his platoon of the Auckland Infantry regiment in the Gallipoli invasion on 25 April 1915, but his right arm was smashed by a bullet. It was amputated in Egypt, and he was sent to England to recover.

When we were working on our diorama for the other World War 1 centenary museum in Wellington, The Great War Exhibition. I had heard that Te Papa's exhibition was to be subtitled 'the scale of our war'. At the time, I thought that this subtitle should apply more appropriately to our exhibition with its massive diorama of 54mm figures. Little did I suspect they meant 'scale' in the other direction - models 2.4 times lifesize! This was a close-kept secret, only revealed on opening day. 

This electronic diorama of the Anzac landings uses computerised animations projected onto a 3D map. This is particularly useful for putting the whole confused battle into logical order.

Another photo of the same diorama, showing a different stage of the invasion. The photo doesn't do this justice - even the sea is animated, with wavelets lapping the shore.  

The next of the large models you see is Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick of the New Zealand Medical Corps. He was among the first New Zealanders to land on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Throughout that day and night, he treated hundreds of wounded Anzacs on the beach, describing the scene as ‘hellish’. Fenwick was evacuated from Gallipoli, ill and exhausted, after two months. 

The detail is incredible - even his stubble is replicated on Fenwicks two-and-half times enlarged face.

Here you see more of the amazing detail, including a giant fly. Apparently there were three species of fly in Gallipoli, so this is a model of one particular breed.

Our exhibition isn't the only one with a diorama. Te Papa has this spectacular, albeit much smaller, diorama of Quinn's Post.

Down the slopes behind the trenches at the top of Quinn's Post you can see the fortified camp where the garrison lived. With the Turkish trenches often only 10 metres away, Quinn's Post was a weak spot in the lines. Lt Col William Malone of the Wellington Infantry Regiment set about rectifying this. Terraces and dugouts were built and extensive sandbagging protecting the previously exposed areas of the position were erected.

I'm not sure of the provenance of the figures used in the display. But many of them appeared to specifically animated to tell the story. With a hint of hubris, I can say that whilst well sculpted, their painting is not up to the standard of those in our own Chunuk Bair diorama!

There is also this larger scale framed diorama that shows just how close the Anzac and Turkish lines were at Quinn's Post.  Note the anti-bomb netting over the Anzac trench, and also the tunnellers mining towards the enemy lines.

The next large model shows Private John Robert Dunn of the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He landed on Gallipoli with the battalion on 25 April 1915 and served there until July, when he was evacuated with pneumonia. He returned to duty still unwell and, on 18 July, was found asleep at his post, court martialled, and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to imprisonment. But a few days after he returned to duty, he was killed in the attack on Chunuk Bair. His remains have never been found.

I didn't photograph the section after the Dunn model, as this part was more sensory - a trench with throbbing sounds and flashes of gun-fire.  But emerging from the other side of the trench, you come to another larger-than-life tableau depicting the Maori Contingent Machine Gun Unit. The gunner is Corporal Friday Patrick Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu), who took over as No. 1 gunner when the original man was wounded, but before long a bullet through the wrist fractured his forearm. 

After Corporal Friday Hawkins was wounded. Private Rikihana Carkeek (Ngāti Raukawa), shown here feeding the gun, took over as gunner. But he was shot through the neck. He dragged himself down to the beach, where he was evacuated to a hospital ship. He returned to fight six weeks later.

Another electronic diorama animates the story of Chunuk Bair. Of course, having been involved in putting together our own huge diorama of this battle, I found this especially interesting. It certainly made sense of the confusing narrative and timelines of this battle.

There are several wonderful huge paintings in the exhibition, including this one of Lt Col William Malone urging on his Wellington troops at Chunuk Bair, shortly before he was filled by friendly artillery or naval fire.

Malone is often credited with introducing the now-iconic lemon-squeezer hat to the New Zealand troops. However it is interesting to note that in our own diorama we don't have him in a lemon-squeezer as here, but wearing an officer's standard peaked cap. One or other of us is correct!

Another painting is this stark monochrome rendition of the machine gunners' view from The Apex as they mowed down line after line of Turks as they entered their 'killing zone'.

Besides the fighting men, their vital nursing support is also shown in another larger-than-life tableau. Staff Nurse Lottie (Charlotte) Le Gallais of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service on board the hospital ship Maheno. She is shown at the moment she found that her letters to her brother Leddie had come back to her stamped: ‘Reported killed’. He’d been dead four months, but only their family back home had received the news. 

Here's a large-scale section of the hospital ship Maheno, a liner that had been converted into a hospital ship using money raised by an appeal by the Earl of Liverpool, the Governor-General.  In accordance with Article 5 of the 1899 Hague Convention she was repainted white overall, with a broad green stripe along her sides, and large red crosses on the sides and funnels.

On the other side of the above diorama, you get a kind of dolls-house view of some of her eight wards and two operating theatres. Maheno had a medical team consisting of five doctors and 61 orderlies from the Army Medical Corps, a matron, thirteen nursing sisters, and chaplains.

In just a month the Union Steamship Company removed and stored the Maheno’s luxury fittings, gutted many cabins and public spaces, and built operating theatres, X-ray rooms and specialist labs. This is a model of one of the wards.

A final picture of the Maheno model, showing one of her chaplains delivering a sad and lonely funeral service to one of the unfortunates from the Gallipoli campaign.

The final tableau as you exit the exhibition shows Sergeant Cecil Malthus of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment, after he was redeployed from Gallipoli to  France with the New Zealand Division, Malthus was wounded on the Somme in September 1916, losing toes on his right foot to an exploding bomb. Visitors to the exhibtiion have festooned Malthus with paper poppies.

Here's a diagram showing the overall layout of the exhibition, which fits into a surprisingly small space. Exhibition creative director and founder of Weta Workshop Richard Taylor says he and his team were determined to create something unique to commemorate Gallipoli through their collaboration with Te Papa. Entry is free, thanks to a $3.6 million contribution from the Lottery Grants Board. 

I thoroughly recommend you visit Te Papa and see this display. It's on for four years, so plenty of time for the queues to die down! With Gallipoli: the Scale of our War and The Great War Exhibition, Wellington is so fortunate to have not just one, but two world-class WW1 exhibitions, so the city is well worth a visit from elsewhere in New Zealand, or even from abroad.