Yesterday we flew down to Wellington for the day with the goal of visiting the Great War exhibitions at both the National War Memorial Museum and at the National Museum at Te Papa. The forecast for Wellington was for strong north westerly winds and rain so we were ready for a bumpy arrival (actually I have been in much worse), but what we were not prepare for was the first day of the school holidays (why did I think this was next week) and we were on standby tickets. However, we got seats and got there pretty much on time.
Apart from a bit of an issue where the taxi driver was heading for the wrong museum, we got to the National War Museum by about 9:45 and went through the main exhibition. Created by Peter Jackson it begins with a walk through a Belgian village in 1914 and then traces its way through the war with a strong New Zealand focus. The displays are astonishing with stunning features such as the omnibus, the Mk1 tank, the elevated gun and limber team (below).
For a wargamer the key part of this visit had to be the huge diorama of the attack at Chunuk Bair on 8 August 1915, featuring more than 5,000 54mm figures. Now famous amongst wargames and model soldier collectors for its sheer size I took a few quick snaps, but most will have seen better shots posted on various blogs over the last few years.
Perhaps the most striking thing for me was the colourised photographs. It is astonishing to me how black and white strips life from imagery. Some of these scenes of every day life, often behind the lines, look grim and deathly. But add the colour and there is life, hope and even humour.
The second part of the time at the exhibition was a walk through the trench and tunnel system of Quinn's Post. This section has taken a bit of a bashing in the local press recently, but it is superbly done. Jackson has applied his film making skills here and made use of holographic imagery. The sights, sounds and smells are all represented, applied with a bit of that dark almost ghoulish humour that exists amongst a group of men in this sort of situation portrayed by different actors to demonstrate life in what was a hellish place.
After this we met up with long time Wellington based gaming friends Terry (https://terrysgaragegaming.wordpress.com) and von Peter himself (https://vonpeterhimself.wordpress.com) who kindly drove us down to Te Papa where we went through the exhibition there. This was a very different exhibition. Much more touchy feely with a darker social view of the horrors of war. Again it was brilliantly done. The key for me was the three times life sized mannequins created by Weta Workshops of soldiers and medics that capture in their oversize that blood, sweat and raw emotion of what it must have been like at times.
Any Kiwis who have not been to see this shoud do so soon before it closes.
We then had coffee with Terry and Peter before we headed back to the airport for our trip home. And there was quite a different story. We were a couple of hours early so we thought we would be able to move our standby tickets to an earlier flight, but with the worsening weather a couple of flights had been cancelled and we were unable to transfer, but there were still seats on our existing flight so that was OK. We went to the lounge and had something to eat and drink. Then our flight was cancelled. Luckily we could transfer to another one, but that was delayed. So we waited. As we waited there was an announcement that we had just a experienced an earthquake (I didn't feel it) and all flights were suspended. The collective groan around the terminal was quite audible. Then a minute or two later another announcement apologising that there was no earthquake and that the announcement was an automatic one and was the result of a system error - there is huge relieve that we are still going, but another short delay. Our standby seats come through and to my delight are a flight deck seats so it is an exciting view fir us, especially taking off in a 20 knot wind gusting 60 knots. It is a good flight home and we pick up a Chinese takeaway on the way home. It has been a long and tiring day. I slept well last night.