November 11th 2018 marks the 100thanniversary of the end of World War One, or as it was known at the time, The Great War. This is a pretty big deal, so there are a few big events going on.

First, some stats. In the four years of World War One:

  • 107 million people fought, including soldiers, nurses, and people in other support roles.
  • 5 million people died.
  • 103,000 people fought for New Zealand
    • 18,227 of them died, including two bellringers, & 59,500 people were wounded.

Here are some things going on that you can get involved in:

  1. Bellringing:
  • There is a campaign across the world to ring bells for the end of the Great War. Over 1,400 bellringers died in the war, two of them fought for New Zealand. Bellringing is a quirky traditional art with a long history, which does not need strength or coordination, and anyone can do it. Even I picked it up quickly (and I can’t catch a ball thrown in my direction). If you want to try it out, sign up for the Ringing Remembers campaign here or find your local tower here. You can find out more about bellringing here. If you don’t have a tower or a mini-ring (like a miniature tower!) near you, and can’t get to one to try it out, you have my greatest sympathies, but do let a tower know you exist. You never know! 

 2. Collect a specially-minted Armistice Coin. 

 3. Visit the National Field of Remembrance in Auckland Domain:

      • This won’t be up for long, so see it while you can. Every cross is for a soldier or nurse who died, by year of death.
      • Alternatively, go to your local Field. There’s one in Wellington, Christchurch, & Dunedin, and several schools have one too.
  1. 4. Research a relative who was in the war:
      • Once upon a time, they were our age, living breathing people. Meet them and keep them alive with a bit of research, it’s amazing what you can find. There are a few resources out there, see below for some starting points.
      • Don’t have a relative to look up? Try looking through databases, pick a name that jumps out at you, and learn as much as you can about them.
      • Either way, there are quite a few databases out there for your search. Try the resources listed here, the NZ Roll of Honour, and the Ringing Rolls of Honour, plus there are more on the internet and in museums and libraries.
  1. 5. Go to an event & get involved!
    • Check out this site to find something on near you. It’s got a little bit of everything.

6. Talk to some retired or current military personnel:

  • A lot of older people are happy to talk about their experiences serving or growing up in a war – although you are unlikely to find anyone who lived through World War One. Alternatively, we still have a Defence Force, which nowadays is more about helping in the Pacific after natural disasters, making sure nothing dodgy is happening in our waters and training other countries to fight. You might actually know somebody in the Army or Navy Reserves, or you can talk to them at official events (or when they are recruiting at universities). They know by now that I’d never pass the medical, but they let me chat and ask about their lives anyway. Really nice people, I recommend it. They can give real-person experiences, which really give a different perspective on life. War and the military isn’t just about soldiers and fighting, there are and were so many other roles and dimensions to it, from nurses to paperwork.

Whatever you choose, get involved in the names of everyone who sacrificed their lives for the better future we have today. Puts everything in a different light when you see it like that.