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Published NZ Heritage Magazine 2014

Words and Photographs by Chris van Ryn

“The beginning of the end of war,” wrote Herman Wouk, “lies in remembrance”. 100years on, the World War One Heritage Trail in Auckland is a reminder of all thosesoldiers who died or participated in a war that at the time might have seemed impossible to forget. Yet as the years move relentlessly on it is easy to see how we can not only forget those times but become emotionally distant from them. The heritage trail will go some way to keeping alive the impact World War One had on communities within New Zealand.

Marking the centenary and under the initiative of Ian Maxwell (Manager of Parks, Sport and Recreation) Council is developing the trail to incorporate a wide range of sites. These will act as “stepping off points to tell more of the story,” in the words of Sandra Coney, Chair of Council’s WW1 Political Steering Group. Through the careful selection of sites under six different themes: going to war; training, administration and defence; the economic war effort; the home front; opposition to the war and enemy aliens; and rehabilitation and remembrance, we will be able to attain an insight into the milieu at the time: the price of war on our families, our beliefs, our communities and our economy - as well as the soldiers in the trenches. The trail is also about the telling of human stories: what it was like for families once fathers, sons and brothers had gone to war, the celebration when these men returned and what their lives were like after the war when recovering from injuries and reentering the work force. The trail serves as a portal for post-war generations to begin their own journey of historical investigation. Sites on the trail will be supported by interpretive signage, some signs being permanent and others in place for the duration of the commemorative period. It is envisaged that an app will be available to download onto a smart phone which will include photos of what places looked like during the war period and enable the public to drill down to more information online. Contributions to our body of historical knowledge can be made by the public through another Council initiative; the Auckland Libraries website called “Our Boys, Our Families”. The sites will be spread across the Auckland Region - in those days a series of separate villages, from each of which departed a large proportion of the young male population, and each now having its own memorial of some sort. Participants are not expected to drive along the entire trail. Rather, it is envisaged they will explore parts of the trail virtually and may be inspired to visit a collection of sites geographically close to each other, initially perhaps the ones in their local area, some of which they may not have had any prior knowledge about. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is preparing a book covering NZ WW1 heritage sites throughout New Zealand, in essence, a national version of the Auckland Heritage Trail. The Auckland trail is expected to open in August this year.

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