National War Memorial (New Zealand)

National War Memorial (New Zealand)
National War Memorial
New Zealand
Dedication of National War Memorial Carillon, Wellington.jpg
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
Unveiled Anzac Day 1932
Location 41°17′56.67″S 174°46′37.80″E / 41.299075°S 174.777167°E / -41.299075; 174.777167 near Wellington, New Zealand
Designed by Gummer and Ford

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

The memorial 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.


War Memorial 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 Messrs Gillett and Johnston Ltd, and arrived in New Zealand in January 1931.

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.

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 Tākaka marble in 1982.

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.

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.

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.

Mounted to one side of the Sanctuary is the Lamp of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is dedicated to preserving the remembrance of the dead of all wars of all nations and to the unity within each nation of all war veterans' associations.

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

The Hall of Memories is lined with cream Mt Somers stone. Inside, Hanmer marble, Coromandel granite and Tākaka marble are all used.

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, [2][3]

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

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.[4]

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

Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson

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 Saturday 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. [5][6]

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[4], followed by a Military Funeral Procession through central Wellington. More than 100,000 people lined the streets[7] to the National War Memorial where an Interment Ceremony with full Military Honours took place.[4]

The Warrior was finally laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on Thursday 11 November 2004, Armistice Day[4].

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 Bearing Head Lighthouse (on ridge upper left in far distance).


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.

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'[8]

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. [9]

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

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.

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

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.

—New Zealand Listener, [10]

National War Memorial Park Project

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.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, May 2004 [11]

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has been working with Transit New Zealand to acquire land on Buckle Street, across the road from the National War Memorial, to create a National Memorial Park.

This would not only improve the setting of the National War Memorial but would strengthen the heritage value of the entire area. The park will not be purely an open space. The design will allow for the construction of memorials, particularly from countries that New Zealand has a close relationship with.

The land is currently tenanted and work on the park will begin once the leases expire and the land is vacated. It is expected that the park will be completed by 2008.

$6 million has been allocated for the acquisition of land to create a National Memorial Park, with $2.5 million in 2006/07 for the costs of landscaping to create the memorial park after the current leases have expired.

See also


  1. ^ "Heritage Trail- Wellington's 1930s Buildings" (PDF). Wellington City Council. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  2. ^ "Return of the Unknown New Zealand Warrior" (Press release). Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  3. ^ ""Known unto God"". Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Unknown Warrior returns home" (Press release). New Zealand Defence Force. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  5. ^ "Defence Contingent Salute Fallen Soldiers at Menin Gate" (Press release). New Zealand Defence Force. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  6. ^ Helen Clark (2004). "Parliament to pay respects to Unknown Warrior" (Press release). New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  7. ^ "Ministry for Culture and Heritage Annual Report 2005 - setting the scene". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2005. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  8. ^ "History of the Memorial". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  9. ^ New Zealand Official Year Book. Statistics New Zealand. 1990. 
  10. ^ "Coming home". New Zealand Listener. 2004-11-13.;jsessionid=2ED0C279F8A428CC95FEF075D21FBC08. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  11. ^ "Budget 2004 National Memorial Park to honour war dead" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 

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