It is clear immediately after arrival that Wellington is a quite different city from Auckland. Auckland may be the bigger in population and the commercial hub but Wellington is the capital with parliament. More than that, Wellington belies the dull, provincial image of New Zealand. It is cool, edgy a bit Californian. Climate-wise a brisk wind blows hard off the sea giving it the nickname “the Windy City”.
After a stroll around the city centre we headed down there.
I went first to the fourth floor which had exhibits on the Maori culture and the 1840 Treaty of Wangenui whereby the Maoris ceded to the sovereignty of Queen Victoria – all achieved by brisk negotiations.
I then moved to the exhibition, which really engaged me on Gallipoli. Gallipoli was to define the future of three countries: Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.
The military commander of the Ottomans, Kemal Ataturk, became the first ruler of Turkey. The landing cove was called Anzac Cove and the date of April 25th 1915 the most important day enshrined in the Australasian calendar.
The exhibition was finely curated. It had large visual sculptures, very life-like, of soldiers and a nurse and graphic visuals of the terrain. Essentially the Australian forces landed with the Ottomans occupying the high ridges and taking these proved an arduous, life-expensive campaign of ultimate futility. By December 1915 almost all the forces were evacuated. The losses were horrendous though mainly sustained by the Ottomans and British soldiers. It was a clever tactical strategy in theory to take the Dardenelles and cut off Turkey but it did not succeed. One of the most moving exhibits was the reading of a letter to his wife from Colonel Malone of the 4th Battalion of the Wellington Taranaki Volunteers who was to lose his life the following day after the night attack to take Chokuk Bair in June 1915. Gallipoli was a disaster for Lord Kitchener and the Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, but a symbol of both the bravery and independence for Australasia.