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. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Woo-hoo! 100,000 hits in four months

Today this blog broke the 100,000 views barrier.  Pretty good for just four months - an average of 25,000 hits a month, or almost 1,000 hits a day!

The first few months were mainly visits by the 140 painters involved in the project.  But since the diorama opened earlier this month, the hits have gone through the roof. This is probably because our blog is the main source of photographs of the finished diorama.

The continuing high number of visitors means a change of emphasis for this blog. Instead of supporting and recording for posterity the now-completed painting project, we've got to be conscious of the fact that our newer visitors want to actually know more about the diorama and see what it is all about.

The best of the pictures haven't even been seen yet!  They're being kept for a special illustrated booklet that is being produced about the diorama, as well as for publication in the wargaming media. Keep watching here for news on these ...

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

'Letter to the Editor' about the diorama

Today's Dominion (the Wellington-based national newspaper) carried a letter to the editor concerning our diorama of Chunuk Bair:

Gary Murdoch started by describing how he visited the diorama in the old Dominion Museum, and how everyone should see it.

He then went on to make a fair point, which coincidentally my sister-in-law and I had also discussed on Sunday when I showed her family around the diorama:
 ... I have one criticism though. Despite all the care and taken to get the model soldiers right in the Gallipoli diorama, the landscape itself lacks description.
It could be a scene from Makara coast or almost anywhere for that matter. Without much contrast, all geographical points merge into one another on Sari Bair Ridge, Gallipoli. 
Chunuk Bair, Baby 700, Battleship Hill, The Apex, The Nek, Rhododendron Spur are not identified yet they are central to our story.
How difficult would it be to put a little name-flag on each feature? There is not even an indication where the sea and Anzac Cove are.
There is a narrative on the glass surround, but it's extremely difficult to translate into what is happening on the ground.
Gary Murdoch, Karori
When I was showing my sister-in-law's family around, I had to begin the story by orientating them to where the sea was.  Once they could picture that, then following the narrative became more obvious.

I also like Gary's suggestion of some sort of method of naming the main features.

And isn't it terrific that there is enough interest in our diorama for it to inspire a letter to the editor of one of our main national daily newspapers!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Confused about the origins of WW1?

This Horrible Histories video will make the origins of World War One as clear as ... um .. mud.

How the war started is also covered really well in the main part of The Great War Exhibition, though not in such a humorous manner.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Photos of the opening ceremony for the Chunuk Bair diorama

We missed seeing this NewstalkZB photo report showing the opening of the ANZ New Zealand Room last week.  This room of course contains our Chunuk Bair diorama.

There are some great photos of Sir Peter Jackson making final adjustments to the diorama.

The photos in the report were taken by

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Police magazine features Chunuk Bair diorama

Odd though the connection may at first seem, the May issue of the New Zealand Police magazine Ten-One features a story on our Chunuk Bair diorama.

This story came about because your blog-master (ie me!) works for the Police. This month's issue of the internal Police magazine has a theme of Anzac Day, as police officers are always very much involved in these commemorations around the country.
You’ll have to look hard to find him, but Police National HQ Schools Advisor Roly Hermans has been transported in miniature into the thick of the battle for Chunuk Bair.
Roly was among an army of Kiwi wargaming enthusiasts recruited by film director Sir Peter Jackson to paint 5000 model soldiers for the huge battlefield diorama created for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.  read more ...
So having a story about our diorama in a police magazine isn't really so 'out of left field' after all.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Amazing colourised photos of Gallipoli

On the walls around our Chunuk Bair diorama at The Great War Exhibition, there are two hundred colourised photos of the Gallipoli campaign.

Sir Peter Jackson, who led the exhibit project, said seeing World War I photos in colour removed a sort of "protective screen" between people of the past and the present.

"Once you're in colour, that 100 years starts evaporating."

Some images are haunting, some quirky, many just prosaic.

"They're just normal guys. They're just like us."

Here is a  selection of some of the photos from the exhibit, in no particular order.  These are reproduced here with permission of The Great War Exhibition.

Heading ashore towards Gallipoli.

Boat being towed ashore by a steam pinnace.

Turkish machine gun.

Coming ashore.

Lt Colonel W.G.Malone, commanding officer of the Wellington Battalion.

Detail of the above picture of Lt Col W.G. Malone sitting outside his dugout.

Australians charging at Gallipoli.

Turkish commanders.

Anzac soldiers at Gallipoli. 

Living conditions at Gallipoli.

Living accommodation.

Sniper's view of Turkish trenches - note the two Turkish periscopes on the right.

Turkish water spring.

Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick and Murphy the donkey.

Richard (Dick) Henderson and his donkey.

The beach.

Maori Contingent's redoubt at Gallipoli.

Changing the guard?

Quinn's Post after it has been renovated by Lt Col Malone's Wellington Battalion.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

More photos of Sir Peter Jackson's diorama of Chunuk Bair

Today I visited our Chunuk Bair diorama at The Great War Exhibition for the first time since I had last seen it a week before it opened to the public.

Having been involved with the diorama from the beginning of the project, I knew what to expect - or at least I thought I did.  But this was the first time I had seen it complete and with all the other exhibits in situ around it.  And it was the first time I had experienced the reaction of the general public to both the overall effect and the emotional impact of the diorama.  I was as flabbergasted as if it was my first time.

Hopefully the following few photos give you an impression of what the setting of the diorama is like. These pictures follow on from my earlier series of photos showing details of the diorama itself, taken a week before opening day.

Don't forget to click on any photos you want to see larger sized.


It was a beautiful morning in the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park today, with lots of people already starting to gather to see Prince Harry who was to make a flying visit in the afternoon. I made my way up the steps beside the Carillion to the old Dominion Museum, now housing The Great War Exhibition - you can just see its large badge peeping out behind the Carillion tower.

I've posted elsewhere photos of the main part of The Great War Exhibition. In this posting I'll just concentrate on the ANZ New Zealand Room, which this year commemorates the Gallipoli campaign. Besides the diorama, one of the main features of this room are the 200+ colourised photographs that line the walls as you walk down the winding entry passage into the diorama room.

The colourised photos really bring to life pictures that we've always previously seen as black-and-white, for example these two famous pictures of men with donkeys, one an Australian, the other a New Zealander.

After winding down the entry passage with its colourised photographs, this is the first sight you get of the diorama.  This is Battleship Hill, with the ridge-line of Chunuk Bair itself hidden behind the pillar. The diorama has had to fit around a couple of these structural pillars in the Museum, but they don't detract too much at all.

Here's the outlook from the first of the two viewing platforms. It looks out over the top of Rhododendron Ridge (left) and the trenches of Chunuk Bair (right).

Stepping back from the viewing platform, you reach the Apex end of Rhododendron Ridge. Note the glass fences that surround and protect the diorama.

Walking further round, you look back across Rhododendron Ridge to Battleship Hill.  As you can see, there were large numbers of visitors when I was there, and they were all obviously engaged with the diorama and the story it tells.

The is the Hill Q end of the Chunuk Bair trenches (though Hill Q itself isn't included in the diorama).  As you can see, the colourised pictures continue on the walls right around the diorama.

The diorama interpretation was cleverly done with semi-transparent placards affixed to the glass screens telling the story chronologically as you move around.  This one is near The Apex.

The story told by the placards is well researched. I learned a lot of information that I had never known about before, such as the story about hitting rocks at three feet.

The last paragraph of this placard was something else I hadn't thought about before.

We see some visitors following the story of the waves of Turkish surging up Chunuk Bair to oust the New Zealanders and British.

There is a lot of blood in the diorama.  Whilst it may be tempting to think this effect is overdone, accounts from the time say the ground actually turned reddish-brown from all the blood.  This diorama doesn't hold back any punches in telling it the way it was.

The last time I had seen The Apex a week before the opening of the diorama, there were probably only a third of the figures who now populate the scene.  These depict the reinforcements waiting to head over the crest and up Rhododendron Ridge to attempt to assist the Wellingtons.

Despite there being 5000 figures in the diorama, each one has been painted lovingly, as you can see with these Turks in their trench on Battleship Hill.  I particularly like the officer, encouraging his men, but I'm not sure how long he'll survive if he keeps his head up like that.

The New Zealand Room also includes some boxed displays, such as this selection of food, swarming with flies.

There are also pieces of weaponry dotted about, some from Sir Peter Jackson's personal collection. Again, look at those colourised pictures in the background, this time bringing the Turks to life.

When we were painting the miniatures, one of the questions was what colour to paint the machine guns.  Luckily there was a real one to give the correct information.

Whilst I was examining the diorama this morning, I ran into one of the Wellington painting team, Paul Reynolds, and his daughter.  He has placed some exquisite photos of his visit onto the Pendraken Forum.

So, that's the diorama. But bear in mind that these photos just don't do it justice - you've got to try and see this for yourself to experience its real impact.