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A street level look at Wellington’s World War 1 history

Oct 17th, 2014 | By | Category: Latest News, News

Worser Bay: Beethoven Algar who served in Egypt and the Middle East. IMG: Mark Trantrum.

Worser Bay: Beethoven Algar who served in Egypt and the Middle East. IMAGE: Mark Trantrum

AS COMMEMORATIONS for WW1 continue, you may have noticed curious portraits decorating your neighbourhood.

They are the portraits and stories of eight soldiers, one nurse and one conscientious objector .

The images are part of Wellington City Council’s Lest We Forget project and have been pasted around the city since October 11th

Council says these stories will allow people to connect with past residents who lived normal lives until war was declared.

The idea was dreamed up by Lest We Forget concept developer and curator, Anna Dean.

She says she was inspired by statistics about New Zealand’s involvement in WW1 that she learned at a talk given by military historian Dr Chris Pugsley, earlier this year.

From a population of one million at the time, 100,000 New Zealanders were directly involved, including 18,000 who died and 47,000 who were wounded.

To illustrate these figures, Anna decided that ten representative Wellingtonians needed to be found.

“After all of the research one of the best things about this project has been locating their families and realising that this is real and living history,” she says.

To encourage Wellingtonians to connect with the stories, Anna decided to bring them down to street level.

Island Bay: Ernest Kilby resisted conscription during the Great War due to his religious and pacifist convictions. IMAGE: Anna Dean

Island Bay: Ernest Kilby resisted conscription during WW1 due to his religious and pacifist convictions. IMAGE: Anna Dean

“I wanted to create a way to present those stories in street-side locations so Wellingtonians could come face to face with this wealth of material.

If the wall stories came from the suburbs we live and work in, from the same streets we now walk, we could share in the experiences of these men and women who went before us,” she says.

In order to engage people of all ages, Anna sought the participation of a local street artist ‘bent’.

A group of Wellington High School students also got on board to help create these limited edition wall stories.

Anna says the black and white imagery reflects the photography of the day.

Hannah August, Historian for Lest We Forget, says the research gave her a real sense of these soldiers and nurses as people with pasts, not just names on an honour roll.

“These letters brought home the physical horrors of war and the homesickness that some of these young men felt,” she says.

Hannah says her role allowed her to unearth the stories and images of local men and women whose lives changed because of the war.

The stories can be found around Worser Bay, Island Bay, Karori, Mount Victoria, Oriental Bay, Newtown, Wadestown, Johnsonville, and throughout the Wellington CBD.

The image of Māori  Battalion soldier, Pirimi Pererika Tahiwi will be pasted up around Otaki from Sunday .

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is is a Whitireia journalism student
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