President Tan revisits role of New Zealand in WWI

President Tony Tan and his wife Mary taking a tour of the Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum in Wellington yesterday. On the far left is Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
President Tony Tan and his wife Mary taking a tour of the Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum in Wellington yesterday. On the far left is Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

On the first day of his state visit to New Zealand yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam took in a key part of the country's history - its role in World War I.

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, and the battles they fought. More than 18,000 of them died.

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-size 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 World War I by New Zealand's Sir Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord Of The Rings films.

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 in New Zealand.

Earlier yesterday, 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.

The President then took a domestic flight to Wellington, where he will receive an official welcome today and call on the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, who will host a state dinner for him. Dr Tan will also meet Acting Prime Minister Bill English.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'President Tan revisits role of New Zealand in WWI'. Print Edition | Subscribe