The new British Memorial

The National War Memorial used to be, well, just for New Zealand; but with the development of a park around it under the Maori name Pukeahu, it became possible to include memorials from other nations honouring their own sacrifices, or more properly sacrifices made alongside Kiwis. Most prominent is – and quite rightly – the Australian memorial; but the Brits have recently set up too with a creation off to the side of the park.

the new British Memorial

It was opened in 2018 by none other than than Boris Johnson, then British Foreign Secretary, who managed to make a slightly embarrassing comment about the Hongi, the Maori greeting which involves touching nose and forehead – namely that it might be misinterpreted in Glasgow on a Saturday night. Cue Mild Diplomatic Laughter…

Designed by Weta Workshops and fabricated locally, the memorial owes more to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings than to Olde England; but the Brits are cautious not to come over all imperial with New Zealand, and Kiwis seem generally pleased that we have honoured local industry with it. People are carefully not saying that it looks like an ostrich.

The concept is of two trees which intertwine – an English Oak and a New Zealand Pohutukawa – and in the middle the branches fuse into the image of a Great War soldier. Amazing what they can do with computer-aided-design these days, eh? Stand underneath it and the Oak leaves and Pohutukawa flowers are quite enchanting…

British opinion here seems to be that it might be a bit wifty-wafty but at least it’s a long way from awful. Probably not suitable back in London where it would already be festooned with litter and grafitti, and would smell like a public toilet… but happily this is New Zealand, where better standards prevail.

Lastly, the accompanying plaque is a bit of an embarrassment with some basic mistakes in typesetting, expression and punctuation – including some very odd use of commas. Groan.