Hall of Memories

Hall of Memories

Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories Hall of Memories

The Hall of Memories serves as the commemorative chapel of the National War Memorial. The original plans for the Hall were included with those for the Carillon tower in the 1920s, but were put on hold because of the Great Depression and the Second World War.

In 1955 the government hired architectural firm Gummer and Ford to redesign a ‘simple but dignified’ building as a memorial for New Zealand’s war dead, an increasingly important imperative following the Second World War and the Korean War. The Hall was constructed by builders P. Graham & Sons for a total of £113,800, and following several construction setbacks was finally unveiled by Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson and Prime Minister Keith Holyoake on 5 April 1964.

Aided by the white Mt Somers stone on the walls and the abstract stained-glass windows, the Hall possesses a serene, reverent and contemplative quality. It is frequently used for services and wreath-laying ceremonies which commemorate the men and women who have served and died in New Zealand's armed forces.

Six alcoves flank both sides of the Hall of Memories; six for the Army, three for the Navy (including the Merchant Navy) and three for the Air Force. Each alcove has its own dedicated plaque of remembrance to a specific branch of the service. Four alcoves also contain mounted wall plaques commemorating the conflicts in South Africa, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. The alcoves are sometimes used as chapels by military units when they carry out their own services of remembrance.

Forces commemorated in the alcoves

First New Zealand Expeditionary Force Infantry

Godley addressing 1NZEF troops in France

New Zealand’s primary military contribution to the British Empire’s war effort in the First World War was the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (now known as the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force or 1NZEF), the largest component of which was the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. The 8454 volunteers who made up the main body and First Reinforcements of 1NZEF left New Zealand on 16 October 1914, just two months after war was declared with Germany. They remain to this day the largest body of men to leave New Zealand at one time.

1NZEF was first deployed in the ill-fated campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula in modern-day Türkiye, but from 1916 the much enlarged Force fought in the Middle East and on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Forty-two drafts of reinforcements were sent from New Zealand during the war at a rate of approximately 2000 a month.

In all, 124,211 New Zealanders – including 2227 Māori and 30,000 conscripts – were mobilised as part of 1NZEF, with 100,444 being sent overseas. Of the 59,483 casualties the Force suffered, 18,166 were fatal.

Displayed on the plaque are the regimental badges of the provincial regiments that are represented in 1NZEF.

Find out more about the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force Infantry

2 NZEF Infantry marching into Egypt

Much like in the First World War, New Zealand’s major military contribution to the Second World War was the infantry-based ground force known as the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Volunteers for the Force, and from 1940 conscripts, underwent basic training at Ngāruawāhia (later Papakura), Trentham and Burnham before being posted overseas in either the 2nd or, later, 3rd New Zealand Divisions.

The 2nd New Zealand Division fought German and Italian forces in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy between 1940 and 1945. Formed in 1942, the 3rd New Zealand Division saw action against Japanese forces in the Pacific before being disbanded due to manpower shortages in 1944.

Within each division were a number of infantry brigades (Inf. Bde.), each of which consisted of a brigade headquarters (Bde. H.Q.) and three battalions (B.N.). The 9th Infantry Brigade was unique in that it was made up of a Divisional Cavalry Regiment, Motorised Battalion and Machine Gun Battalion. The specially formed 28th (Maori) Battalion became one of the most celebrated and decorated units in the New Zealand forces. Organised along tribal lines, the Battalion was at times attached to the 4th, 5th and 6th Brigades. The three-panelled Māori carving, known as Tahiwi, was presented to the National War Memorial by Gallipoli veterans in honour of the Maori Pioneer Battalion which fought in the First World War.

In total, over 104,000 New Zealanders served in 2NZEF; of the Force's 30,000 casualties, 6271 were fatal.

In the alcove above 2NZEF’s plaque sits the flag of New Zealand between the New Zealand Army’s colours.

Find out more about the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Corps and Services

New Zealand Supply Column engineers

This panel commemorates the corps that were represented among the units of the First and Second New Zealand Expeditionary Forces. The corps/units are represented on the plaque by their badges (from left to right):

Top row: NZ Specialists, NZ Machine Gun Corps.
Second row: NZ Cyclist Corps, NZ Post and Telegraphic Corps.
Third row: NZ Veterinary Corps, NZ Pioneers (1916-1917), NZ Maori Pioneers (1917-1919), NZ Corps of Signals, Royal NZ Army Service Corps, NZ Medical Corps and Army Ordnance Corps.
Bottom row: Royal NZ Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal NZ Dental Corps, Royal NZ Chaplains Department, Army Pay Corps, Royal NZ Provost, Royal NZ Nursing Corps and the Women’s Royal Army Corps.

The plaque is surmounted by the New Zealand Army’s General Services badge.

Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps and Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers

18 Battalion infantrymen on an M4 Sherman tank

Little attention was given by New Zealand military authorities to armoured fighting vehicles until 1939, when six Bren-gun carriers formed a mechanised mounted rifles regiment. By the time the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps (RNZAC) was formed in 1942, most of its tanks, scout cars and armoured cars were stationed in New Zealand in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. Inadequate British armoured support in North Africa that year saw part of the RNZAC provide reinforcements there and subsequently in Italy; the remainder of the force fought in the Pacific. Since the gradual reduction of armoured forces in the 1960s, the RNZAC has primarily consisted of light armoured vehicles, light operational vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.

Performing an integral service in support of the armed forces, engineers (or sappers) have been involved in all of New Zealand’s military engagements at home and abroad since 1867. In the First World War, engineers contributed to 1NZEF by tunnelling, demolition, signalling, construction, fortification and digging trenches. During the Second World War the engineering corps constructed bridges and railways, often under intense enemy fire; improved roads, airfields, and ports; laid or lifted mines on the front line; and were frequently called on to act as infantry soldiers. Since 1999 they have played a prominent role in New Zealand’s peacekeeping activities.

Both corps represented on this plaque acquired their ‘Royal’ prefix/infix in 1947. Their respective badges are present at the top of the plaque.

New Zealand Mounted Rifles

New Zealand Mounteds ride through Cairo

Mounted rifles units consisted of riflemen on horseback who would ride to the scene of battle before dismounting to fight as infantrymen. New Zealand’s earliest mounted rifles contingents saw action during the South African War of 1899-1902.

During the First World War four mounted rifles regiments served as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifle Regiments were each divided into three squadrons, the service badges of which are represented on this plaque. At full strength, each regiment comprised 549 men and 608 horses. During the First World War the mounted rifles served in Gallipoli, Sinai, Palestine and France.

Although highly mobile and prized for their ability to patrol large areas, horse-mounted riflemen were unable to keep up with the technological development of modern warfare. Accordingly, during the Second World War 2NZEF did not require mounted troops, but instead used Bren-gun carriers and armoured cars.

A total of 1186 mounted riflemen died in action during the First World War. Of the 10,238 horses sent overseas as part of the New Zealand Armed Forces between 1914 and 1918, only four returned. The remainder were killed, died of disease, sold, or given to the British Army.

In the alcove above the Mounted Rifles’ plaque is the New Zealand Ensign – which has faded from its original blue – between two flags of the New Zealand Army.

Find out more about the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.

Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery

New Zealand Field Artillery in action on the Somme

‘Ubique’, the motto of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery as seen on the unit’s coat of arms, is Latin for ‘Everywhere.’ Indeed, in one form or another, artillery units have been present in almost every conflict in which New Zealand combatants have been deployed.

Carronades left by European settlers were used in early 19th-century inter-iwi conflicts. Later that century, cannon, howitzers and Armstrong guns were used by British and colonial forces during the New Zealand Wars. A volunteer artillery unit took part in the South African War of 1899-1902, serving as part of the Rhodesian Field Force. The Royal New Zealand Artillery was formed in 1902. During the First World War the four artillery brigades that made up the New Zealand Field Artillery served in Egypt, Gallipoli and France as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The regiments that served in the Second World War are inscribed on the plaque commemorating the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery. Originally the plaque did not list the regiments, but their services have been better recognised since two appliqué panels were added in 2001. The regiments in the left-hand column were formed in 1940 and served with the 2nd New Zealand Division in North Africa and Italy, while those on the right were formed in 1942 to serve with the 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific. These regiments formed what was known as the Regiment of New Zealand Artillery – which was retitled the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery in 1958,  just six years before the Hall of Memories was completed.

Royal Navy

Tug of war on HMNZS Leander

Prior to the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1941, New Zealand’s small naval forces operated as part of Britain’s Royal Navy. In addition, many New Zealanders were seconded to the Royal Navy during the First and Second World Wars.

In the First World War, at least 500 New Zealand naval servicemen and reservists served in the Royal Navy. This contribution foreshadowed the country’s larger contribution during the Second World War, when more than 7000 New Zealanders served in the Royal Navy. Many took part in the all-important Battle of the Atlantic, and many of the 4700 serving in 1944 were involved in operations connected with the D-Day landings at Normandy on 6 June. About 800 New Zealanders served as naval aviators in the Fleet Air Arm (FAA); in May 1944, the peak month, they comprised 7% of FAA personnel.

The naval crown, seen at the top of the plaque, has become the emblem of the Royal Navy and surmounts the badges of Royal Navy ships.

Find out more about the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy.

Royal New Zealand Navy

Ship's company of HMNZS Kiwi on parade

Prior to the Second World War, the naval ships for which New Zealand was responsible formed the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. This division also included a volunteer naval reserve, which numbered 670 men in 1939.

On 1 October 1941 a royal order-in-council established a distinct Royal New Zealand Navy. As well as being active in local defence measures in response to intrusions by German armed merchant raiders, RNZN crews served in the South Pacific, South Atlantic, Middle East, Mediterranean Sea and finally in Japanese waters.

During the Second World War, 10,000 men served in the RNZN and its Volunteer Reserve. Compared with the other two services, the death toll was comparatively light. In all, 800 men became casualties, of whom 573 lost their lives.

Since 1945 the RNZN's operations have included sending two frigates to patrol the Korean coast during the Korean War, undertaking coastal bombardments in Malaya in the 1950s, contributing medics during the Vietnam War, and taking part in peace enforcement in East Timor and elsewhere.

The naval crown, seen at the top of the plaque, is the emblem of the Royal Navy and surmounts the badges of Royal New Zealand Navy ships. Featured above the plaque are the red civil ensign (used by the Merchant Navy), the white Naval Ensign and the blue New Zealand Ensign.

Find out more about the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Merchant Navy


These civilian seafarers sailed the ships that delivered troops, military equipment and cargoes of food, fuel and raw materials across the world's oceans. Much of the Merchant Navy’s focus was on keeping Britain supplied with these vital resources during the two World Wars. Several hundred New Zealand merchant seafarers were lost at sea and hundreds more were taken prisoner.

With enemy attacks a real and constant threat, no other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during wartime. Their work was so essential to the Allies' war effort that the Merchant Navy was effectively regarded as the fourth service alongside the army, navy and air force. To recognise their sacrifices, 3 September is now officially known as Merchant Navy Day.

Although primarily the emblem of the Royal Navy, the naval crown (seen at the top of the plaque) was adopted by Britain’s Merchant Navy in 1918 in recognition of their service and sacrifice during the First World War.

Find out more about the Merchant Navy.

Royal Air Force

NZ pilots graduating from the Empire Air Training Scheme

With no military flying corps in New Zealand, approximately 700 adventurous young Kiwis joined the British Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service or Royal Air Force during the First World War. More than 70 lost their lives, some 40% through flying accidents, and nearly 30 more were captured or interned after crash-landing due to battle damage or mechanical failure. The Royal Flying Corps’ badge is seen on the left-hand side of the plaque.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, volunteers were called to serve in the recently established Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) for as long as the war lasted. Many of those who volunteered were seconded to the Royal Air Force (RAF), which the Royal Flying Corps had become in 1918. By 1939 there were already 550 New Zealanders serving in the RAF in the United Kingdom, India and the Middle East. A further 7002 New Zealand airmen joined the RAF during the war, many in the seven ‘New Zealand’ squadrons – No. 75 and Nos. 485–490 - which consisted predominantly of New Zealand personnel.

However, the majority of New Zealand airmen in the RAF were not in the 'New Zealand' squadrons, but instead flew alongside men from Canada, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. New Zealand was represented, at some stage, in almost every RAF squadron, in all theatres of the war. Some 3250 New Zealanders died while serving in the RAF during the Second World War. The RAF’s badge appears at the top of the plaque, and the Naval Crown on the right-hand side commemorates those who served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

Find out more about New Zealanders in the Royal Air Force.

Royal New Zealand Air Force

Bristol Beaufighter pilot

On 1 April 1937 the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) became an independent arm of the military services. In spite of this status, the RNZAF remained small compared to the army and navy until a major recruiting drive was launched following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.

From a meagre beginning of only 1100 servicemen, the force grew to a peak of 42,000 in 1944 (including RNZAF personnel serving in the Royal Air Force). During the war the RNZAF was primarily engaged against the Japanese in South-East Asia and the Pacific. During the course of the war approximately 900 New Zealand airmen lost their lives whilst serving in the RNZAF.

Since the Second World War, the RNZAF has operated in Cyprus, Malaya/Malaysia and Vietnam, and has formed an integral part of New Zealand’s peacekeeping missions around the world.

Hoisted above this plaque is the New Zealand Ensign, positioned between the Royal Air Force Ensign on the left and the Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign on the right.

Find out more about the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Royal New Zealand Air Force support units

RNZAF Servicing Unit engineers

Supporting the pilots and planes of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during its Second World War campaign in the Pacific was a massive effort requiring substantial support structures.

Following the Americans’ experience of pilot fatigue while fighting in the Pacific, the RNZAF created distinct aircraft Servicing Units. These were permanently stationed at an airfield, and separate from a squadron’s aircrews who were stationed in the forward combat zones for six weeks at a time. It was the Servicing Units’ responsibility to check, refuel, rearm and repair the RNZAF’s planes after their sorties.

The Aerodrome Construction Squadrons and Works (Islands) Squadrons helped to overcame the logistical challenges of island-hopping warfare in the Pacific. The former constructed airfields, while the latter constructed and maintained accommodation for air- and ground-crew. Their personnel were selected because of their ability to perform hard work under tropical conditions.

Providing advanced warning of enemy aerial attacks and conveying the location of enemy aircraft to the RNZAF’s fighter pilots was the responsibility of No. 62 Radar Squadron – the only New Zealand radar squadron to serve outside the country.

South Africa

Third Contingent Rough Riders

The South African War (or Second Anglo-Boer War) was the first overseas conflict to involve New Zealand troops. Fought between the British Empire and the Boer South African Republic (Transvaal) and its Orange Free State ally, it was the culmination of long-standing tensions in southern Africa.

Eager to display New Zealand's commitment to the British Empire, Premier Richard Seddon offered to send troops two weeks before conflict broke out. Hundreds of men applied to serve, and by the time war began in October 1899, the First Contingent was already preparing to depart for South Africa.

By the time peace was concluded two-and-a-half years later, 10 contingents of volunteers totalling over 6500 men (plus 8000 horses) had sailed for South Africa, along with doctors, nurses, veterinary surgeons and a small number of schoolteachers. Seventy-one New Zealanders were killed in action or died of wounds, with another 159 dying in accidents or as a result of disease.

Above the plaque commemorating New Zealand’s involvement in the South African War sits the escutcheon of New Zealand’s coat of arms.

Find out more about New Zealanders in the South African War.


NZ gun crew in Korea

New Zealand was involved militarily in Korea from 1950 to 1957, first as part of the United Nations ‘police action’ to repel North Korea’s invasion of its southern neighbour, and then in a garrison role after the armistice in July 1953.

In all, about 4700 men served with Kayforce (New Zealand’s ground force contribution under United Nations command) and a further 1300 in two frigates during the seven years of New Zealand's involvement in Korea. Forty-five men lost their lives in this period, 33 of them during the war (including two RNZN personnel).

Find out more about New Zealanders in the Korean War.


NZSAS troops in Malaya

The Malayan Emergency (1948–60) arose out of an attempt by the Malayan Communist Party to overthrow the British colonial administration of Malaya. Over the 12 years of conflict, New Zealand soldiers, sailors and airmen made a significant contribution to the Commonwealth effort to defeat the insurgency.

New Zealand ground forces and naval units also supported the British and Malayan forces in the later Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation of 1963–66.

Approximately 4000 New Zealand servicemen served in Malaya/Malaysia between 1948 and 1966, of whom 15 lost their lives - three as a result of enemy action. New Zealand's involvement in Malaya was an important stage in the transition of New Zealand military forces from a non-regular to a regular framework of organisation.

Find out more about New Zealanders in the Malayan Emergency.


Infantry troops boarding a helicopter, c1970

Between June 1964 and December 1972 around 3000 New Zealand military personnel served in South Vietnam. Compared to its response to the First and Second World Wars, this country's contribution was modest. At its peak in 1968 the New Zealand force numbered 548. Thirty-seven servicemen died while on active service and 187 were wounded.

The Vietnam War lasted from 1959 to 1975. It was fought between the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and the US-backed Republic of Vietnam in the south. It ended with the defeat of South Vietnam in April 1975. Nearly 1.5 million soldiers and perhaps 2 million civilians died during the war.

This was the first war in which New Zealand did not fight alongside its traditional ally, Great Britain. Instead, our participation reflected this country's increasingly strong defence ties with the United States and Australia.

Find out more about New Zealanders in the Vietnam War.

The sanctuary

Sanctuary sculpture

The focal point of the Hall of Memories is the bronze statuary group of figures standing within the Hall’s sanctuary, sculpted by Aucklander Lyndon Smith. Representing a mother with her children, the group conveys a gentle yet powerful image of the suffering and burden carried by families during and after times of war.

Two columns stand on either side of the steps up to the sanctuary, each adorned with the coats of arms of the Commonwealth countries that fought during the two world wars. On the column’s sides facing the hall the countries are linked by stylised branches, stemming from Britain’s coat of arms at the base, while the reverse is engraved in a poignant pattern of falling leaves.

WW1 Commonwealth column

On the two side walls of the sanctuary are large crosses, representing sacrifice, which form the background for the coats of arms of New Zealand’s main towns. Beneath these are displayed the rolls of honour, in which are inscribed 30,108 names commemorating New Zealand’s war dead from South Africa, the First and Second World Wars, and the wars in Korea, Malaya/Malaysia and Vietnam.

Carved in stone above the sanctuary are doves of peace and verses from Psalm 139 in the Bible.

Visit the National War Memorial's website.   

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