Tag Archives: War Veterans

First World War Descendants -The End of the War?

The End of the War? our new exhibition, created by Story Inc. and Dusk, shows the effect of the First World War on New Zealanders, and features interviews with descendants of people who had a variety of roles in the war—soldiers, patriotic supporters, conscientious objectors, politicians and nurses.

Lois Wilson, Vic Singe and Felicity Siemmens are three of the descendants featured in the show.

Vic and Felicity are the grandchildren of Victor Sing, who was one of the four ‘fighting Sings’—New Zealand-Irish-Chinese brothers who fought at The Western Front and The Somme. The brothers, Herbert, Albert (known as Victor), Robert and Arthur, were all living in Grey Lynn when they enlisted.

Herbert was a signaller on telephone duty during a bombardment when the telephone wire was repeatedly broken. Each time, Herbert went out to repair the wire, under fire, to keep the lines of communication open. He was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal for deeds of exceptional bravery.

During the production of the show, Vic and Felicity learned of a letter that Private Albert Sing wrote home about his brother Herbert’s death.

Private Albert Sing wrote, It was only a few weeks previous… that Herbert made a name for himself in a strafe. He was on duty at the telephone when the wire was broken on three different occasions…. He was a great loss to us all and his comrades, for he had many, and was well liked. But it’s hard, Mother, to bear our loss bravely.”

Felicity Siemmens and Vic Singe outside The Great War Exhibition, which is currently screening The End of the War?, a show about the effects of the First World War on New Zealand families.

As Vic says in the show, “He was a ‘Fighting Sing’ till the end for sure, you know. And brave as, going out there and doing it.”

Many participants in The End of the War? mention the effects of the First World War on subsequent generations. Felicity explains, “They had help with their physical wounds, but their psychological wounds really remained. And remained, perhaps, down through the generations.”

The show gave Vic and Felicity the experience of seeing their relatives honoured, and having their story acknowledged in a public space.

Felicity says, “Story Inc has provided our family with a unique opportunity to remember a grandfather and an uncle in a very special way. Albert and Herbert are now being remembered and honoured. It was an honour to pay tribute to an uncle we never knew in the flesh. Pretty amazing … information has come to light in this WW1 Exhibition and shone a spotlight on the past.”

Read more about the fighting Sings here.

Lois Wilson is the niece-in-law of Louisa Higginson who served as a nurse in the First World War. Lois recently visited to see the show. It was quite an emotional experience for her.

Lois says, “Louisa was given the position of being in charge of a prisoner of war camp and they were German prisoners.”

Louisa wrote home, “I feel so disgusted and ashamed to think I have to nurse the Huns. This is what I paid my fare and came 16,000 miles for. It is a beautiful place and should be used for our boys.”

Lois commented, “But she would do her duty. And she did.”

Lois Wilson and her daughter Glenys. Lois is the great niece of Louisa Higginson, who served as a nurse in the First World War. Hugo Manson is pictured behind them, right, holding a photo of his father Cecil who served in Gallipoli.

Nowadays, attitudes to war are different. “With the stories we heard, we just wondered why they went. I often think, even now, I doubt that the males of the country would think of going to war now,” Lois says in The End of the War?

Read more about Louisa Higginson here.

Kate Manson, the script writer for Story Inc, whose father Hugo Manson and grandfather Cecil Manson (who served at Gallipoli) feature in the show, says being involved in writing the scripts and seeing the final product was an emotional experience. “There was a real connection with their families, discovering their ancestors and their stories and acknowledging what they did.”

The End of the War? is showing at The Great War Exhibition until doors close to the public at 6pm on December 2nd 2018. Book your guided tour or Trench Experience here.

USA Embassy & Jack Rogo – Pearl Harbour

The American Embassy invite you to hear Jack Rogo speak at the Great War Exhibition on June 5th, from 6-7pm.

On the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack Rogo, a 19 year old Navy Storekeeper 3rd Class, working in the Aviation Supply Department, was having breakfast in the mess. The building convulsed. Jack and his colleagues did not pay attention as the rumor was that the armory was on maneuvers, but some of the explosions were very loud, and they just couldn’t comprehend what was going on. After breakfast, he went onto the lanai to see what was happening and could not believe his eyes. There was no way to fight back. The ships were sinking and turning over.

Men were swimming to shore, if they could, and the dead and badly wounded were floating on the water. Jack volunteered to go out to pick up those wounded who could not make it to shore.

Everything was in such disarray that they shot down some of their own planes that evening. Engineers were needed to plan the uprighting of the sunken ships. Ford Island never became normal again.

Now 97, Jack is a celebrity in Los Angeles and visits local schools to recount the December 7, 1941 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor and the other four years he and his fellow heroes served in the Pacific during World War II. Jack is a character and lives life to the fullest – he sky dived for the first time at 88 and had a Pearl Harbor tattoo he designed, etched on his arm when he was 96. He has an endearing and contagious nature and is an inspiration to everyone he meets.

Admission to this event is free.

Jack Rogo USA Embassy talk at Great War Exhibition

1000th Last Post Ceremony Today

1000th Last Post Ceremony Tonight

Our neighbours at the Pukeahu National War Memorial, will hold the 1000th Last Post ceremony today, at 5pm, Thursday 18 January 2018. To mark this occasion, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating and Minister of Defence Hon Ron Mark will read the Odes of Remembrance.

The stories of five servicemen  — Rifleman Horatio Beechey, Private Ernest Cook, Private Ernest Sharman, Captain Charles Ward and Rifleman Harold Winwood — who died on this day 100 years ago, will also be read.

Many dignitaries will be attending, including:

  • Hon Grant Roberston, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage
  • Hon Ron Mark, Minister of Defence
  • David Ledson, Chair, National War Memorial Advisory Council
  • Jack Steer, Chief Executive, Returned and Services Association
  • Paul James, Chief Executive, Manatu Taonga
  • Brodie Stubbs, Manager, Memorials & Taonga
  • Paul Riley, Curator, National War Memorial

Last Post ceremonies are held each evening in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The public are usually invited to participate in the Last Post ceremony by reading the Ode of Remembrance or playing the bugle. The service includes lowering the two New Zealand flags, playing the Last Post, the observation of one minute’s silence and the Ode of Remembrance in Māori and English.

Manatū Taonga and WW100′ s full media release is available here.  Stuff also features an article about this occasion.

RSL Australia President Robert Dick Visits

The Great War Exhibition is offering free admission for all RSA members in November 2018, in recognition for their service to our country. Click here for more information.

President of the RSL (Returned and Services League) of Australia, Robert Dick, visited The Great War Exhibition after the RSA’s national conference last week, and shared his thoughts about the Exhibition.

A keen war historian, Mr Dick enjoyed what he saw. “I like everything in The Great War Exhibition,” he said. “It stacks up with some of the best exhibitions I’ve seen. I loved it all. It shows a genuine picture of what conditions were like over there. You see a small part of it, but you can’t imagine what it was like, in reality, all around you. It reminds people that the job these men went through was very hard, under extremely, difficult conditions and we should remember them.”

Robert Dick also viewed the current temporary exhibition running until mid-December—an audio-visual show about Passchendaele.

“Your temporary exhibition Passchendaele—New Zealand’s Darkest Day is very powerful and confronting”, he said. “It’s similar to the exhibition at Cloth Hall in Ypres, Belgium. The effect you get with the water hitting the ground at your feet, just adds that extra dimension.”

Mr Dick reiterated what he said about the importance of the ANZAC bond at the RSA conference in Wellington last week. “A lot of countries would be jealous of the bond that Australians and New Zealanders have. It was a bond that was formed in the Boer War and cemented at Gallipoli. It’s a bond that lives to this very day. We rag each other, we poke fun at each other, but when the time comes, we stand shoulder to shoulder and take the world on, head on.”

As RSL President, Robert Dick has been involved in many initiatives to help Australians to remember the First World War, including remembrance projects with children.

“We took year nine and ten students on a tour of the Western Front a while ago,” he recalls. “They won the right to attend via a competition, and had to research a soldier who’d died on the Western Front in their local area. We visited the graveside of a Tasmanian soldier, and took a small piece of Tasmania and left it there with a Tasmanian flag, along with letters from his family.”

“Apparently, every few weeks, they go around the cemeteries and retrieve the mementoes that are left there and put them in a museum so they’re there for perpetuity. We left messages at the graveside, from family who had lost grandfathers or great uncles in the war at the Western Front, showing they hadn’t been forgotten. People from home still remember them.”

“These children are now young adults whom we’re very proud of, knowing that they’re going to keep the ANZAC legend alive into the future.”

Some of his own family members were in active service on the Western Front.

“I had two great uncles killed on the Western Front. They were from Scottish regiments and they were killed in the Third Battle of Ypres. No one knew where their records were, because they were destroyed in the Second World War. I eventually found them at Tyne Cot cemetery and laid poppies next to their names. That evening, I had the honour of reciting the Ode of Remembrance at the Menin Gate ceremony [in Ypres Belgium], so it was a very special day.”

When asked about the future of the RSL and RSA, Mr Dick commented, “The RSL is going through a cultural change to bring us into the 21st century. We think of the modern cohort veteran as a male, but there are a lot of females now in the military and we need to respect them more because their job is harder. Females have to win the respect of older chaps. When veterans see females marching with medals, they think they belong to their father or brother or husband, instead of thinking they’re earned them in their own right. This thinking makes it a lot harder to recognise their contribution, so we’re working on that.”

For more information about RSA members’ free entry into the Exhibition during November 2017, click here.

Photo: RSL President Robert Dick with First World War colourised images of New Zealand and Australian divisional staff.

RSA Free Month

Following last year’s success, The Great War Exhibition is offering FREE admission for all RSA members in November 2018, in recognition for their service to our country.

Sense the hardship, heroism and tragedy of World War I. The Great War Exhibition includes a remarkable collection of objects, hundreds of colourised photographs, movie-like sets and miniature models to tell the story of this terrible war.

For an even richer experience, we highly recommend booking onto a guided tour for a special RSA price of $10 per person. Our knowledgeable guides bring the exhibition to life and provide a deeper understanding of the significance of the artefacts on display. Tours generally take about 45 minutes.

If you’re bringing a group of ten or more, enhance your visit with a Diggers Brew or Empire Tea. (Advance bookings are essential, with a minimum of 5 days notice).

Your RSA membership card must be shown upon admission, when you arrive at the front counter.

Bookings can either be made online here on our website, by phone (04) 978 2500, or by emailing info@GreatWarExhibition.nz

Promo code for individual bookings: RSAMONTH

Promo code for group bookings: RSAGRPDEAL

Free Entry for RSA Members in November 2018