Armistice Centenary

Posted on December 8th, 2018

The Armistice Centenary was commemorated throughout the country – in Auckland, an impressive field of 18,277 named crosses was laid out in the Auckland Domain from October 20th until November 20th when many descendants came to collect the personalised crosses. From November 4th to 11th there were falling poppies illuminated on the Harbour Bridge and from November 9th to 11th the Auckland War Memorial Museum was also illuminated with falling poppies. Other cities also established a Field of Remembrance to commemorate their local boys and held Armistice remembrance ceremonies.

On Armistice Day itself, thousands gathered on November 11th in front of the Cenotaph of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, surrounded by the 18,277 crosses. Master of Ceremonies Chris Mullane (ex Vice-President of the Passchendaele Society) poignantly said that the softly falling rain that fell on those gathered was like the tears of the fallen. There was a 2-minute silence at 11am, followed by a Roaring Chorus to simulate the joy felt throughout New Zealand when the Armistice was announced and the guns fell silent in France and Belgium after 51 months of continuous cannon-roar.

When one first set eyes on the Field of Remembrance the mass of crosses strikingly and starkly revealed the sheer scale of New Zealand’s sacrifice during World War 1. Each cross represented a story of a life cut short. The Passchendaele Society were proud to be initiators and associated with the Field of Remembrance Trust and the incredible amount of work that was done over the past 4 years.

The Field of Remembrance reflected New Zealand society in 1914-1918, the majority were New Zealand-born, both Maori and Pakeha, together with thousands of immigrants. They were predominantly Christian but there were also a few Jewish soldiers (commemorated with a Star of David). Thousands were farmers and farm labourers but also white- and blue-collar workers from town, professionals who included 11 nurses and a Member of Parliament. Most were single men in their 20s but there were also many teenagers, officially under age, as well as middle-aged married men with families. They belonged to clubs and societies, including 13 All Blacks and a Wimbledon champion.

This all goes to say that those 18,277 New Zealanders were deeply missed around dinner tables, workbenches and in every facet of society. Bereaved families also missed having a body to mourn, as they were buried or commemorated near to where they died. Whether the son of a Prime Minister or a simple Private, each was commemorated with a personalised cross (or Star of David) with their service number, rank and name. Daily the field attracted thousands who came to spend time to find a personalised cross and to reflect on the impact of their service on families and whanau, communities and the nation…..’As long as we remember, the brave live forever’.

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