Anzac Day social studies activities

Page 7 – War Memorials

First World War memorials in your area

If there are any doubts about how seriously New Zealanders took their contribution to the First World War you need look no further than your own community.

The memorials register found in NZHistory is a register of which includes oever 500 public First World War memorials. Each record contains information about the location and appearance of the memorial. Some also include the unveiling date and the number of soldiers who died in the First World War. Most of the records link to images of memorials.

There is also a useful section on interpreting these memorials, which stresses how they 'have become part of the common fabric of our lives, like stop signs or lamp-posts' and that no two memorials are exactly the same. Every community that sent and lost people in the war commemorated not only individual sacrifice but the contribution of their community as a whole. Sacrifice on this scale saw an enormous outpouring of grief from parents, lovers, siblings and friends. The war gave New Zealand the opportunity to stand tall on the world stage and the commemoration of this also gave every community a chance to express their pride and their sorrow.

Why not use Anzac Day as an opportunity to visit your local public war memorial/s? Some schools also have their own memorials to students who lost their lives fighting overseas, and the Second World War led to many new memorials being added to the public spaces of most New Zealand communities.

There is a registration form available should you wish to do a project on your local memorial with your class. Your students could find out more about the people listed on your memorial and create a web project for your school website.

If you visit any of these memorials consider the following points to generate discussion:

  • What is the style of memorial?
  • Is there any mention of how it was paid for?
  • What are the inscriptions? Are there any references to God, 'King and Country' or Empire?
  • Look at the names; what stands out?
  • Are ages given?
  • Would we build memorials like this today?

Anzac Day (and beyond) fatalities

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists 147 fatalities from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on the first day of the Anzac landing. Most of those who died on 25 April have no known grave and are therefore commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial to the missing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This list is available from NZHistory.net.nz. You can also search anzac.govt.nz for all New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli.

There are several ways you can use this information and, in the process, provide an opportunity to combine some local history with an examination of the Gallipoli campaign.

  1. Search for people with the same last name as you.
  2. Find the names of those killed from your own area, and see whether they have been acknowledged by your local war memorial.
  3. Find out which Gallipoli cemetery or memorial to the missing commemorates these fatalities.
  4. You could combine some of this information to select one fatality and prepare a fact sheet on that person that records their personal details, an image of where they are commemorated at Gallipoli and an image, if one exists, of where their death is commemorated at home.

For example, information could be recorded like this:

  • Lance Corporal Thomas Francis ADAMS
  • A Coy. Auckland Regiment, NZEF
  • Killed in action 25 April 1915. Age 31.
  • Son of the late William and Hannah Elizabeth Adams.
  • Native of Ashburton, Canterbury.
  • Lone Pine Memorial (with image of this provided – see Anzac.govt.nz).

By selecting someone from your area you can then find out if that person is listed on the local memorial and provide an image of that memorial. First check the First World War memorials register to see if there is one already available.

Overseas memorials

As well as looking at memorials in your own locality you might want to explore some of the memorials and cemeteries located on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It might be possible to trace some of the casualties you found on local memorials and see where they fought and died at Gallipoli.

Memorials to the missing

The Allies did not return to Gallipoli until more than three years after the evacuation. Most of those who had fallen during the fighting were either never located or, if found, could not be identified. These men are commemorated on memorials to the missing.

The New Zealand government decided that the New Zealand Expeditionary Force's missing – 67% of those who fell – should be commemorated near where they lost their lives. During the 1920s memorials to New Zealand's missing were created at four cemeteries:

  • Chunuk Bair (850 names)
  • Hill 60 (182 names)
  • Lone Pine (753 names)
  • Twelve Tree Copse (179 names).

See these memorials on the Anzac.govt.nz website.

Ways to use this material in your class

There is considerable statistical work you can do that could form part of a wall display that explores some aspects of the Gallipoli campaign. For instance:

  • There are nearly 2000 names of New Zealand casualties listed on these memorials. You could consider dividing the memorials and those listed into sections and get groups of students to work out the average age of those killed from their allotted list. Each group's list could then be added together to come up with an overall figure.
  • While looking at ages your groups could keep a tally chart that records the place of birth of those missing (if it is listed). Again each group's list could be added to a class list. From this, your students could construct graphs to show the spread across New Zealand, or this information could be displayed on a blank map of New Zealand, using different colours used to show locations with fewer than 5 casualties, between 6 and 15, 16 and 25, etc.
  • It is possible to gather statistics that differentiate between those who were killed in action and those who died of disease or were killed in accidents. This information could be presented with a note on the types of diseases soldiers were at great risk of dying from.

Cemeteries

The scale of death and destruction on the Gallipoli Peninsula can also be seen in the number of cemeteries scattered across the area. Using the cemeteries section of Anzac.govt.nz you might want to consider some of the long-term issues for those countries who participate in remembering the war dead and maintain the cemeteries and memorials. Note that there are also many memorials that commemorate the Turkish casualties. A key idea would be to explore the work and role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Consider:

  • Why is it important that these memorials and graves are maintained?
  • What is the significance of Gallipoli as a place of pilgrimage for many New Zealanders when travelling on their 'big OE'?
How to cite this page

'War Memorials ', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/war-memorials-anzac-day-social-studies-activity, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Mar-2015