Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum

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The main image shows the dawn service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, 25 April 1986 (Anzac Day). The dawn service was popularised in New Zealand in 1939 by Australian veterans who had attended a similar service in Sydney the previous year. Other images from 2013 show recent additions to the forecourt of the museum, including a memorial water feature and text around the base of the cenotaph.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

In 1920 Aucklanders decided to build a new museum as the city’s war memorial. A prominent site in the Auckland Domain had already been set aside for a museum. Central government gave £25,000 towards the project. Auckland City Council, Auckland Harbour Board and Auckland Savings Bank all made generous grants. The bulk of the funds, however, was raised by public donation. (Local bodies within the region later agreed or were required to contribute to the museum's upkeep.)

Architects Hugh Grierson, Kenneth Aimer and Keith Draffin, all of whom had seen active service during the war, won a competition for the design. Prime Minister Gordon Coates laid the foundation stone on 1 August 1925. The fine classical-style building was opened by Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson on 28 November 1929. The Auckland Cenotaph in the court of honour in front of the museum was consecrated on the same day.

The museum building incorporated a number of symbolic features. The carvings on the frieze running around the exterior of the building depicted scenes from the war. The names of battles in which New Zealanders had fought were engraved above each window. Memorial fountains on the east and west sides of the original building commemorated the Palestine campaign and Gallipoli. A poppy motif appeared on the bronze doors at the main entrance and recurred throughout the interior.

On 24 April 1932 another Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, unveiled the Auckland provincial roll of honour in the World War I Sanctuary on the top floor of the museum. The names of 7,297 Aucklanders who had given their lives (including 14 nurses) were carved into the slabs of Italian marble that faced the walls; they were also written on vellum in two leather-bound Books of Honour, one page of each book being turned each day.

After the Second World War the building was enlarged. Governor-General Viscount Cobham formally opened the Auckland Provincial Second War Memorial on 19 March 1960. The World War II Hall of Memory, opened later on the same day, saw 4,702 names added to the provincial roll of honour.

New Zealand Wars and South African War shrines were also installed in alcoves alongside the World War I sanctuary. No names were listed in the New Zealand Wars alcove, but the South African War alcove has 272 names inscribed. Rolls of honour for Korea (41 names) Malaya-Borneo (66 names) and Vietnam (37 names) were unveiled in 1991. In 1996 the names of those killed in the Merchant Navy were added to the Second World War roll of honour (91 names).

Although the First and Second World War rolls of honour include only the names of those who enlisted in, came from, or had some other connection with the Auckland provincial district, the New Zealand Wars, South African, Korean, Malaya-Borneo and Vietnam memorials are all intended as national memorials.

On 8 October 2008, a memorial to the 2,157 New Zealand volunteers who lost their lives flying with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War was unveiled. The museum also displays the remarkable three-panel Grafton District School roll of honour for 1914-1919 in its First World War gallery. This lists 350 names, including 46 dead.

Sources: H.E. Vaile, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Domain Hill, Auckland, 1929; The Centennial History of the Auckland Institute & Museum, ed. A.W.B. Powell, Auckland, 1967; Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride, Wellington, 1990, pp. 122-5; Auckland War Memorial Museum: An Architectural History, Auckland, 1997; Richard Wolfe, A Noble Prospect: 75 Years of the Auckland War Memorial Museum Building, Auckland, 2004.

See also: Auckland War Memorial Museum entry in a History of NZ in 100 Places.

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about Auckland War Memorial Museum

What do you know?

John Halpin

Posted: 11 Sep 2013

If you have more information of the exact whereabouts of this memorial I would like to photograph it. Over time I have been up to the Hospital and have spoken to the Property Manager and they do not know where it would be. Maybe it is one of those things that they walk past everyday and don't even notice it.

Sir or Wallaby Pedagogue

Posted: 12 Jan 2010

There is a memorial list at the Auckland Hospital on one of the stairs to the nurses from Auckland Hospital who served in the wars. There are some severe WWI omissions such as Elsie Grey who wasn't selected to serve overseas so she and a few other nurses paid their own way travelling by ship to Britain and only then were they accepted to go onto France. She may have had alterior motives as she was very keen on a Lt Batchelor who unfortunately got killed and for whom a wing at Massey University is named after him.