A great way to break the drive south is a stop at the National Army Museum in Waiouru. This is not only a great resource of our part in all wars we’ve been involved in but an insight into what our soldiers went through in the trenches. You can spend between 1-2 hours or even more here exploring all the exhibitions and learning of New Zealand’s place in wartime.
You start off passing through the Greenstone Memorial Wall. Names and service records of the dead are read through an audio system as water falls down the Greenstone Wall signifying the tears of loved ones left behind.
You then go through to the New Zealand Wars exhibit which has not only stories of the time but plenty of history to read up on.
In the Boer War exhibit, you will find many treasures including the scarf crocheted by Queen Victoria and given to one of the 1st New Zealand Contingent soldiers, Trooper Henry Coutts. There was only eight made and were given to Commonwealth soldiers for bravery during the Second Boer War. There is also Gus the Horse who represents all the horses that were sent over to South Africa, between 6600 and 8800 and only one came back, Major. A New Year’s gift from Queen Victoria was a box of chocolates. Some were eaten and the tin was thrown away but there is one in the museum as a few men realised how valuable this gift from the Queen was and kept them.
The biggest exhibit is World War One. Moving and informative with dioramas and sets depicting scenes of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Trench Art from the soldiers is on display in a case. Their ingenuity and skills are amazing considering the resources and conditions that they endured.
World War Two was next with tanks, paratroopers coming down from the ceiling and more interactive models to educate you in an informative way. A POW wooden wall has signatures on it of WW2 POW’s. Only original prisoners can sign the wall and it’s protected behind glass for future generations to see. Button compasses, clothing and stories are also in this corner of the museum.
More recent wars are also exhibited along with equipment and guns used. Order, decorations and medals are also on display. Our peacekeeping contributions are also covered over the years since World War Two.
There is still one survivor from World War One, Torty the Tortoise, a female Greek tortoise. Rescued from being run over by a French gun carriage, New Zealand stretcher bearer, Stewart Little, took care of her repairing her shell and bringing her back to New Zealand, where she has spent a long life being handed down through the Little family generations.
The New Zealand War Animal Memorial. Purple poppies represent the animals whereas red is for human life
A café and gift shop are on the way out. Outside are more tanks, picnic tables and the Animal Memorial.