President Tony Tan begins state visit to New Zealand, visits exhibition on country's WWI role

President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) and Mrs Tan (right) being received by The Honourable Nikki Kaye (left), Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation and Minister for Civil Defence on their arrival at the Auckland International Airport.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) and Mrs Tan (right) being received by The Honourable Nikki Kaye (left), Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation and Minister for Civil Defence on their arrival at the Auckland International Airport.PHOTO: DR TONY TAN/FACEBOOK
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (third from right) and Mrs Tan (fourth from left) and members of the delegation taking a tour of the Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (third from right) and Mrs Tan (fourth from left) and members of the delegation taking a tour of the Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum.PHOTO: DR TONY TAN/FACEBOOK

WELLINGTON (New Zealand) - On the first day of his week-long state visit to New Zealand on Monday (Oct 26), President Tony Tan Keng Yam took in a key part of the country's history - its role in the First World War.

Shortly after arriving in the capital city of Wellington, Dr Tan visited a newly-opened exhibition that depicts New Zealand's participation in the war.

His tour of The Great War Exhibition took him through the experiences of some of the 100,000 soldiers from New Zealand who fought in the war from 1914 to 1918, over 18,000 of whom died, and the battles they fought.

The exhibition is housed in the country's first national museum, the historic Dominion Museum building in downtown Wellington.

Outside, the city centre's streets were quiet as it was New Zealand's Labour Day public holiday, but inside the exhibition, visitors heard nothing but the sound of soldiers' marching songs, gunfire and planes.

Lending the exhibition a sense of realism were life-sized figures of soldiers, authentic wartime weapons such as hand grenades and a tank, and cobblestoned paths and rocky terrain underfoot.

It was created to commemorate the centenary of the First World War by New Zealand's Sir Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings films that featured scenic parts of the country.

Dr Tan also toured a companion exhibition on New Zealand's part in the invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey.

A central part of the exhibition focused on the amphibious assault a hundred years ago on April 25, 1915, when thousands of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, fighting alongside British and other allied soldiers, stormed the Gallipoli beaches under heavy fire.

The Gallipoli campaign is regarded as having stirred a sense of national identity for New Zealand.

On Monday, Dr Tan was received by New Zealand Cabinet Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation, Civil Defence and Youth Nikki Kaye when he arrived at Auckland International Airport.

He then took a domestic flight to Wellington, where he will receive an official welcome on Tuesday and meet Governor-General Jerry Mateparae, who will host him to a state dinner. He will also meet Acting Prime Minister Bill English.