National War Memorial (New Zealand)

National War Memorial
New Zealand
Dedication of National War Memorial Carillon, Wellington edit.png
The dedication of the National War Memorial Carillon, on Anzac Day, 25 April 1932
For New Zealand dead of South African War, World Wars I and II and the wars in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam
UnveiledAnzac Day 1932
Location41°17′56.67″S 174°46′37.80″E / 41.2990750°S 174.7771667°E / -41.2990750; 174.7771667
Wellington, New Zealand
Designed byGummer and Ford

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

War Memorial Carillon

Bells in the Carillon

The National War Memorial Carillon was designed as a sister instrument to the 53-bell carillon at the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada.[1]

The carillon bells were made in Croydon, England, by Gillett & Johnston, and arrived in New Zealand in January 1931.[2]

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.[3][4]

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 Takaka marble in 1982.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] Since the opening of the National War Memorial Carillon in 1932 there have only been four official carillonists: Gladys Watkins, John Randal, Selwyn Baker, and Timothy Hurd.[8]

Hall of Memories

The Hall of Memories
Flags in the 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.[9]

Mounted to one side of the Sanctuary is a Lamp of Brotherhood, one of 84 made after World War II to commemorate the war dead of all nations and to promote reconciliation and unity between nations.[10][11]

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.[12]

The Hall of Memories is lined with cream Mt Somers stone.[13][10] Inside, Hanmer marble, Coromandel granite and Takaka marble are all used.[5]

Unknown Warrior

The Unknown Warrior symbolise[s] the tremendous sacrifice New Zealand has made over the last century in the struggle to preserve freedom and justice and the democratic way of life...For all New Zealanders this [is] a day of remembrance and a day to remember.

— David Cox, RNZRSA National President, [14][15]

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.[16] The remains were chosen by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, near where the New Zealand Division fought in 1916.

The Tomb in 2012

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.[16]

I told him [the Warrior] we're taking him home and that those who are taking him home are soldiers, sailors and airmen, past and present. I asked the Warrior to be the guardian of all military personnel who had died on active service. I then promised that we, the people of New Zealand, will be his guardian

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.[17][18]

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,[16] followed by a Military Funeral Procession through central Wellington. More than 100,000 people lined the streets[19] to the National War Memorial where an Interment Ceremony with full Military Honours took place.[16]

The Warrior was finally laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on Thursday 11 November 2004, Armistice Day.[16]

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

An Unknown New Zealand Warrior
He Toa Matangaro No Aotearoa
Landscape showing the National War Memorial (New Zealand) (Carillon lower left), New Zealand Dominion Museum building (copper-roofed building lower middle and lower right), Government House, Wellington (Edwardian building right middle) and Baring Head Lighthouse (on ridge upper left in far distance).

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.[20]


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.[21]

The inscription on the foundation stone reads:

REO WAIRUA. TO THE GLORY OF GOD. To the memory of the New Zealander that died in the Great War, 1914 to 1918, and in honour of those that served or suffered, this stone was laid by the Right Honourable G W Forbes, PC, MP, Prime Minister of New Zealand, on 15th May, 1931.

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'[22]

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.[23]

The hall of memories was officially opened by the Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, on 5 April 1964.[24]

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.[citation needed]

In 1985 the Carillon, increased to 65 bells, was restored, ready for rededication in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II in the following year.[21]

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:

The history goes back to the time Gummer designed the National War Memorial, which was completed – not in its present form – in 1932. The original design was just the carillon tower and an avenue which led from the harbour to the tower, with what was then the National Museum behind. As part of that design Gummer actually made provision for a tomb, but all building other than the carillon tower was abandoned because of the economic situation at the time – the Depression.

So Gummer’s vision was still there; it was never fulfilled. In 1963 the Hall of Memories was added, and it was at this time that the RSA, and others, said wouldn’t it be a good idea if we had our own Unknown Warrior. There are not many people in New Zealand who can afford to pay their respects to one of their family by going to Westminster Abbey, where the Commonwealth tomb was put in the ground in 1923.

It still took another 40 years before a government – and the RSA pays tribute to Helen Clark’s leadership in this – finally got onto the job. The Ministry for Culture & Heritage held a tomb-design competition but, even then, controversy over Robert Jahnke’s winning entry stalled the project; eventually the job went to Kingsley Baird, who came up with a classically simple design of bronze and stone set into the steps below the present memorial.

It’s just another step along the way, from Gummer’s original design of just the carillon, to the Hall of Memories being added in ’63, to this being added now – it shows that it’s actually a living thing, it’s not dead. It’s not about dead people at all, it’s about living people.

— [25], in 20px, 20px, New Zealand Listener

In February 2020, the National War Memorial Building was closed to the public due to concerns about its resilience in an earthquake.[26]

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park

Pukeahu Park as seen from the Carillon

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, also known as Pukeahu Park, opened on 18 April 2015 in time for the centenary of the World War I Gallipoli landings, and was one of the New Zealand Government's key projects to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I.[27]

In May 2004, Prime Minister Helen Clark said,

A park would further enhance the area which is already being redeveloped with the building of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It will provide a more appropriate setting for New Zealand's memorial to those New Zealanders who gave their lives in times of war. Significant aspects of our heritage and identity were forged in difficult times of conflict...this is illustrated by the growing numbers of people who attend ANZAC Day services in New Zealand.[28]

Arras Tunnel

Arras Tunnel, part of the Wellington Inner City Bypass, which passes under the Memorial Park

In 2005, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage worked with the New Zealand Transport Agency to acquire land on the northern side of Buckle Street, in front of the National War Memorial, to create a National Memorial Park. In August 2012, the government announced that the Buckle Street section of State Highway 1 would be moved underground to a cut and cover tunnel beneath the Park, allowing it to extend over the old road area, creating a unified memorial precinct.[29]

The tunnel opened to traffic on the 29th of September 2014, with the name of Arras Tunnel. The tunnel contains 273 decorative red poppies, to remind drivers that they are passing through a significant commemorative space. Arras Tunnel was named to honour the wartime efforts of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company in the French town of Arras during the Great War.[30]

Artworks, Memorials and Sculptures

The park contains memorials from both New Zealand's military allies in addition to historic opponents.

Australian Memorial

Australian Memorial

The Australian memorial, designed by Australian architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, commemorates the significant military relationship between Australia and New Zealand. The memorial consists of fifteen red sandstone columns with various inscriptions and artworks by both Aboriginal and Māori artists.[31] The memorial was opened in April 2015 by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

Belgian Memorial

The Belgian memorial was designed by Belgian artists Niko Van Stichel and Lut Vandebos. Made of steel, the sculpture combines both a traditional symbol of victory, the laurel wreath, with a memorial wreath as a tribute to those who died in battle. A similar sculpture has been installed in East Flanders, Belgium. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders attended a site blessing ceremony followed by outgoing Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson breaking ground. Mauri stones and soil from Belgium were placed into the ground by Ambassador Mullie at a later September 2017 ceremony.

French Memorial

The French Memorial "Le Calligramme" was unveiled by French Minister for State Geneviève Darrieussecq and Minister of Justice, Courts and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little in May 2018.

Le Calligramme features an enscription of the words of French soldier Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1915 poem ‘Le Chant de l’Honneur’ (Song of Honour). The memorial combines landscaping with two large elements made of local stone and crushed French Combe Brune stone from the Western Front. The memorial was designed by architectural firm Patterson Associates Ltd, with Paul Baragwanath and Suzanne Turley Landscapes.

German Tapestry

In November 2017, the President of Germany, Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier unveiled a memorial tapestry gifted on behalf of Germany while visiting the National War Memorial. Titled 'Flandern', the tapestry is based on one of a series of photographs of 14 First World War battlefield sites.[32] The artist, Stephen Schenk, explained that the work was "a reminder of the untold misery and horror, and was created to remember the victims of this inconceivable catastrophe of the twentieth century."

Turkish Memorial

Unveiled in March 2017, this memorial features a free-standing bronze plaque with words of reconciliation widely attributed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk cut through it. This allows the viewer to see a Turkish red pine (pinus brutia) descended from the original Lone Pine at Gallipoli, which is planted directly behind the plaque. The memorial was designed by New Zealand artist and Army Gunner Matt Gauldie.[33]

United Kingdom Memorial

Whakaruruhau United Kingdom Memorial

In July 2017, the United Kingdom Memorial was unveiled by the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson. The memorial was designed and built by Weta Workshop with input from students at Massey University and the British Wimbledon College of Arts.[34]

The design takes the form of two of the UK and New Zealand's most ironic trees. The trunks of a Royal Oak and a Pōhutakawa intertwine to form one single leafy canopy, where leaves from both trees merge to create sense of shelter - giving the memorial its name: Whakaruruhau. Standing at the plaque, between the branches a silhouette of a single soldier can be seen, representing the union of two countries who stood side by side and those millions who served in times of conflict, resolution and peace.[34]

United States of America Memorial

On 10 December 2018, the U.S. Memorial representing the United States and New Zealand's shared history was unveiled, commissioned by the U.S. Government and the American Battle Monuments Commission. The memorial contains a granite tablet carved in Madison, Wisconsin, with the words taken from a radio addressed delivered on ANZAC Day 1943, by the US Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.[35] It reads:

Together, in our strength, we shall keep that ocean – Pacific! ... As we are comrades in battle, so we shall be partners in victory. I salute the lands of the ANZACs as our companions in the peace that will follow, comrades and partners as an example to all the world of what can be accomplished by a fraternity of free men.

1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque

On 6 November 2019 a memorial plaque for the victims of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic was unveiled at Pukeahu. The pandemic killed around 9000 New Zealanders. The plaque was designed by Neil Pardington and Wraight & Associates, and was unveiled by the Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern with historian Geoffrey Rice.[36]


  • New Zealand Indigenous and Specialty Timber Award - Resene Timber Design Awards 2015
  • Public Architecture Award - New Zealand Archiecture Awards 2016
  • George Malcom Award - New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects 2017

See also


  1. ^ "Heritage Trail- Wellington's 1930s Buildings" (PDF). Wellington City Council. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  2. ^ "The National War Memorial Carillon | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". www.mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  3. ^ "The National War Memorial Carillon | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Bells of remembrance | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Story: Building a Stone: Page 5. National building and memorials". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  6. ^ "The National War Memorial Carillon | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Carillon music | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  8. ^ "The Carillonists | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Hall of Memories | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Hall of Memories | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". www.mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  11. ^ Schrijvers, Peter (15 March 2012). The Margraten Boys: How a European Village Kept America's Liberators Alive. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 99–100. ISBN 9780230346635.
  12. ^ "Hall of Memories | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  13. ^ "National War Memorial". Wellington City Heritage. Wellington City Council. 2 February 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Return of the Unknown New Zealand Warrior" (Press release). Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association. 2004. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  15. ^ "Known unto God". Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association. 2004. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Unknown Warrior returns home" (Press release). New Zealand Defence Force. 2004. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  17. ^ "Defence Contingent Salute Fallen Soldiers at Menin Gate" (Press release). New Zealand Defence Force. 2004. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  18. ^ Helen Clark (2004). "Parliament to pay respects to Unknown Warrior" (Press release). New Zealand Government. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  19. ^ "Ministry for Culture and Heritage Annual Report 2005 - setting the scene". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  20. ^ Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, published 27 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-03.
  21. ^ a b SD (August 2012). National War Memorial (Including Carillon, Hall of Memories, Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, pool, steps and forecourt) (PDF) (Report). Massey University. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  22. ^ "History of the Memorial". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  23. ^ New Zealand Official Year Book. Statistics New Zealand. 1990.
  24. ^ "Hall of Memories | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". www.mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Coming home". New Zealand Listener. 13 November 2004. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  26. ^ "National War Memorial Closed due to Seismic Concerns | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". www.mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  27. ^ "Pukeahu Park". Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
  28. ^ "Budget 2004 National Memorial Park to honour war dead" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 2004. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  29. ^ "Memorial Park". NZ Transport Agency.
  30. ^ "Arras Tunnel". Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  31. ^ "Australian Memorial | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  32. ^ "German Tapestry". Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  33. ^ "Turkish Memorial". Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  34. ^ a b "UK Memorial". Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  35. ^ "US Memorial". Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  36. ^ "Pukeahu National War Memorial Park: 1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque" (Press release). Government of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2020.

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