Thursday, 30 April 2015

Only a few days to go for Chunuk Bair diorama opening

There are only a few days now until the diorama of Chunuk Bair opens at The Great War Exhibition in Wellington.

The opening was scheduled for 2 May, but as you can see from The Great War Exhibition's FaceBook page, this has now been changed to two days later:
The ANZ New Zealand room is set to open on Monday 4th May 2015! It is a special space in the Exhibition as it focuses on New Zealand’s story. The ANZ New Zealand room contains a large scale diorama of the battlefield at Chunuk Bair featuring an army of over 5000 miniatures. It depicts that battle in the Gallipoli campaign where, on 8 August 1915, the Wellington Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Malone took and defended the Turkish defences on the heights of the ridge line overlooking the Gallipoli beach head. The diorama shows the desperate fighting, bravery and leadership on both sides that characterised this crucial battle.
The diorama has actually been ready since before Anzac Day, but other items in the New Zealand Room of the exhibition are still having some finishing touches done.

I know people are keenly waiting to see photos of the diorama.  However, pictures are embargoed until after the opening, so I'll be posting them here after that.

Having seen the diorama in its last stages of development, I can say the wait will be worth it. It is absolutely stunning. And I mean not just 'stunning' in the way it looks with so many lovingly painted 54mm figures on such a large terrain, but actually 'stunning' by its heart-rending impact on the spectator with the huge amount of carnage it shows.

This is no normal sanitised wargames table - it is a 'no holds barred' freeze-frame of the bloody squalor that the real battlefield would have been on that day.

Painting the figures, especially the casualties, has been a very emotional task. Perhaps this is part of the reason that the project has built up an incredible atmosphere amongst the 140 volunteer painters involved.

The painting project has brought together wargamers from different clubs all over the country, as well as lots of non-club wargamers and painters.  It has brought together gamers of every genre, most of whom had never painted WW1 or 54mm before.  It has resulted in a camaraderie between the volunteer painters and the professional model-makers from Weta Workshop who did the terrain.

And through the loads of media interest the painting project has created, it has brought the hobby out into the public arena in a definitely "non-geeky" way.

Overall, it has made us all feel proud that we have really done something special to commemorate this important event in New Zealand's history.

So please drop by this blog after the diorama opens, and see for yourself the results of this amazing project.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

More publicity about the diorama courtesy of the Kapiti team

Not content with national television and front page coverage, the Kapiti Wargames Club strikes yet again with another newspaper article, this time in the Kapiti News.

Click on the above picture to read the article.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Texting stormtrooper

Now that it's past Anzac day, it is getting more difficult to ensure there is at least one new posting on this blog every day until the diorama is opened on Saturday.

So to fill in tonight, here is picture from the Armchair Captain (aka Daniel Jones), taken whilst we were at Weta Workshop. This is one of the mannequins that is now in The Great War Exhibition.

However, we presume he isn't still demonstrating that texting was invented in WW1 Germany.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Tour of The Great War Exhibition

Today we joined the Masterton Marauders for a tour of The Great War Exhibition, hosted by the Armchair General himself, Rhys Jones.

As one of the painting teams for the Chunuk Bair project, the Marauders were also treated to a special preview of the diorama, although it won't be officially opened till Saturday. However, photos taken of this part of the tour are embargoed till Saturday, so we can't show the diorama here.

But on with the pics of the tour of the The Great War Exhibition itself.  This display concentrates on the First World War in general, particularly in Europe.

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to keep everything a surprise for an actual visit to the exhibition, view this posting no further! 

A sleepy Belgian village - the calm before the storm.

The Maginot Line.

Horses meet technology.

Last farewells.

Life in the trenches.

Trench diorama.

Trench diorama.

Tank crossing a German trench.


Looking inside the tank.

Technology - big guns, flight, camouflage ...

Colourised picture - no black-and-white photos allowed in this exhibition.

Maori haka.

Group photo.

On the move.

Horsing around.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

So where are the pics of the Chunuk Bair diorama?

In case anyone is wondering where the pictures of the completed diorama are, now that Anzac day has been and gone, they have been delayed one week till 2 May.

This is because the opening of the New Zealand Room, where the diorama is housed, was delayed one week to allow other aspects of the room to be completed to a high standard. 

I have a picture-filled blog posting sitting here ready and waiting for me to just push the 'publish' button, which I'll do on this Saturday morning after the New Zealand Room has opened. I'm really champing at the bit to show you these photos, as they depict how mind-staggeringly amazing the finished diorama is.

Photos have also been taken for a softcover book that'll tell the story of the Battle of Chunuk Bair and the construction of the diorama. We also hope to have pictures in the wargaming magazine press.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Our diorama is covered in 'Nonprofit Quarterly'

Our project is covered in NPQ (Nonprofit Quarterly) magazine.

Probably a somewhat unlikely publication in which to find an article on wargaming. But not a bad article, apart from describing our hobby as 'military-themed boardgame players'!

NPQ is a magazine that provides 'credible, research based articles for nonprofits about management and governance'. It covers 'issues related to the operating environment for nonprofits, specifically public policy and philanthropy'.


Armchair General gets interviewed on National Radio

Our Armchair General, Rhys Jones (probably the world's highest real-life rank wargamer?) was interviewed this Anzac morning by Kim Hill on National Radio.

He spoke well about our diorama project, the hobby of wargaming, and also about WW1 history, international relations and his own career as the former chief of the New Zealand Defence Forces.

You can listen to the broadcast here.

Some other exhibits to be on show with the Gallipoli diorama

Some of the other exhibits in the New Zealand Room, besides out diorama, have been revealed on Stuff today.

The exhibition will feature a Gallipoli gallery of nearly 200 colourised original photographs of the Kiwis who went to Gallipoli, from their training in New Zealand in 1914, right through to the evacuation of Anzac in December 1915. Weta Digital artists have transformed the original black and white photographs into realistic colourised images.

The above sample picture shows the first step of a long journey: the Canterbury Infantry Battalion await a train to take them to their troopship in Lyttelton Harbour, 23 September 1914.

The New Zealand Room opens next weekend on 2 May.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Video of WW1 vehicles in street parade in Wellington today

What day to be at home sick! I had planned for weeks to attend the Anzac commemoration parade today, but bronchitis holds back for no man.

And what an event it turns out I missed. Beautiful weather; big crowds; loads of WW1 trucks, buses, tanks and horse-drawn guns; young period soldiers who actually  looked the part; a sea of red poppies; stirring haka from schoolboys as the parade passed ... wow!

Watch the above video from Stuff, or go to the New Zealand Herald to see these (and more) photos:

Wellington volunteer figure painter Phil Sirvid also sent me the following photos, which he is happy to share here on the blog.


Father and son involvement with Anzac commemorations

The son of Stephen Ladanyi, one of our volunteer painters, is one of 25 New Zealand youth ambassadors at Gallipoli assisting with the ceremonies. James is standing in the centre in the above picture.  

The youth ambassadors have VIP seats at the dawn service and will lead the waiata at the New Zealand Chunuk Bair service later in the day.

Stephen is looking forward to James telling him what it was like climbing up to Chunuk Bair (albeit not under fire) as they together view the ANZAC diorama when it is open next weekend (2 May).

Stephen also advises that another ANZAC project is nearing completion at the Auckland War Memorial. Only 2,000 out of 59,000 metal discs remain to be placed today on the giant poppy, so that photos can be taken and shipped to Gallipoli for tomorrow's dawn service.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

'Kapiti Observer' features the diorama

The Kapiti Observer features our diorama on the front page today.
An army of miniatures created for Peter Jackson's Great War exhibition includes work by a Kapiti contingent.
The installation opens on Anzac Day [now 2 May] at the Dominion Museum in Wellington and depicts the battle field at Chunuk Bair. The wider exhibition opened on April 18.
Kapiti War Games Club member Sam Campbell said 14 members were drafted into the project by former chief of the defence force, Rhys Jones, who was searching for painters skilled at working on tiny figurines.  read more ...

Announcement: Opening day for New Zealand Room delayed to 2 May

Sir Peter Jackson has asked to delay the opening of the New Zealand Room by another week to allow other aspects of the room to be completed to a high standard. So it will now be opened on 2 May, not 25 April as previously advised.

Rhys offers his apologies to everyone who had planned on visiting Wellington next week to see the diorama.

But he says that if any painters are down here to see it before the new opening day, they should get in contact with him, and he will give them a personal tour, including a preview of the diorama.

This of course also means that the blog posting this weekend in which we were going to show photos of the completed diorama will also be delayed by one week.

Book about the diorama

Rhys advises that we will be producing a soft-cover book on the diorama.

The main part of the book will cover the Chunuk Bair battle, using a mixture of diorama photos, maps and original photos from the time.

The second part of the book will be about the construction of the diorama itself.

This book will be something for us to all look forward to immortalise this incredible project we've all played a part in.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A special message from Alan and Michael Perry

We've received this message from Michael and Alan Perry, who have arrived back in Blighty, and are now just readjusting their brains for Salute. They say it's taking some adjusting!
Well, that was three weeks we'll always remember - actually four months we'll always remember! We had fantastic time over in Wellington and met a lot of amazing people we hadn't met before, as well as old friends.
We were staggered by the enthusiasm and drive of all the volunteers and the Weta team. We were very proud to be part of it. It was the hardest we've ever worked, well the most intense, continuous work we should say.
It's the biggest thing we've been involved in and it does look spectacular! That many figures in 28mm would be impressive, but in 54mm it takes your breath away.
There were a few times we thought it might not be ready in time, but we shouldn't have worried.
With the amount of foliage that had to go on (using up all of Peter's personal stock!) it took all the Weta team, the volunteers and our time to place, which cut down the time for placing figures.
So placing figures started on the Tuesday, a working day for the volunteers, so only three of us started to place the figures, with the looming prospect of the 6-foot glass being fitted around the model anytime. This would have made it very difficult to move around the terrain, not the easiest as it was, but to our relief the glass fitting was put back.
The small numbers placing the figures turned out well in the end. We needed to negotiate the terrain without treading on figures or newly added scenery, so people had to work in a sympathetic and considered way. Areas also had to be left for the electricians who needed to get to places where figures would be set to sort out the lighting. 
This must be a first in wargaming history, to get so many of a country's gamers involved in the same project... and what a project! You can be justly proud of yourselves! It was an honour to work with you.
We salute you!
..........talking of Salute........

Alan and Michael have also added some photos on their FaceBook page, depicting the amazing two-and-a-half times human-sized 'bigatures' in our brother exhibition at Te Papa.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Announcement: Photos of completed Gallipoli diorama

On the morning of 2 May (not Anzac Day as previously advised), we will publish photographs of the completed diorama (including the unobscured version of the teaser picture above).  

We'll also publish some of the development photographs that up till now we haven't been able to show because of confidentiality reasons.

Many of you who have been involved with this project around the country will no doubt be itching to see these pictures. So make sure you check in on 2 May.

WW1 light and sound show

If you can't make it to Wellington to see the light and sound show playing on the front of the old Dominion Museum (where our diorama is situated), here's a video to give you an impression.

From the TV3 news site:
As part of nationwide events marking the Anzac Day centenary, a light and sound show has been installed at the Pukeahu National War Memorial.
The show lights up both the National War Memorial Carillon in Wellington and the Dominion Museum behind it.
Photographer and US Embassy press secretary Sean Gillespie shot the video on the show's opening night.
It includes images from World War I and all the campaigns Anzac forces have been involved with since.
The free show runs every night from 7 to 10pm until Anzac Day on April 25.

Brigadier Johnston on the Woolshed Wargamer

Brian Smaller has done a nice posting about Brigadier Johnston on his Woolshed Wargamer blog.

You'll recall this was the miniature that got lost, was quickly re-sculpted, then the original found.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Our Gallipoli painting project draws to a close

Well, it's nearly all over now bar the shouting. The Perrys are on their way home, the figures are all emplaced in the diorama, the terrain is all done, no-one is painting any more last minute figures ... it all seems so quiet!

There is still work being done by Weta Workshop staff. The diorama is being glassed in, lighting is going up, interpretation panels are being written, other displays in the New Zealand Room are being completed.

But from the point of view of the volunteer painters, our job is done.

And what a journey we've had to get get here. Since that first clarion call of the 'Wargamers are needed!' poster in February, we've overcome paint supply problems, hassles with Customs, lost boxes, missing figures, seemingly impossible deadlines ... but we got there!

There were nay-sayers at the start who said it was impossible to mobilise a nation's wargamers to paint 4000 figures (5000 actually ,as it turned out!) , who said the tight deadline would mean an unfinished diorama, who said people wouldn't volunteer without payment. But we've proven anything is possible when there is a will ... and there certainly was a will to be involved, to take an active part of the nation's Anzac commemoration to honour our ancestors, to get the job done.

And it was exciting as the deadline grew ever closer, akin to the buzz anyone who has been in a theatrical production has experienced.  Many of the painters said it was highlight of their wargaming hobby 'careers'.

So now we wait eagerly for Saturday for the New Zealand Room to open, and to start seeing and hearing the reactions of the public to our diorama. I think they'll be shocked at the horiffic tale of war that a simple diorama can convey. To actually see all those tiny lead bodies trailing behind the formations will, I think, arouse powerful emotions in a way that a photo, book or movie can't do.

So enjoy your rest, or return to those other wargaming projects that have been pushed aside for the last few months. And know that you were part of an amazing project that will become part of the history of how Anzac Day was commemorated in 2015.