Anzac poppy, late 2000s, New Zealand, by Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (GH021294)

Anzac Day 2020

As we commemorate Anzac Day 2020 things will be a bit different than normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response people are coming up with innovative ways to mark this important date. Some people will be participating in the Stand at Dawn ceremony. If you haven’t heard about this, the idea is to “Join us at 6:00 am on Saturday 25 April. Stand at your letterbox, at the front door, in your lounge rooms, balconies, in your driveway. Wherever you are in the world, stand with us and take a moment to remember our fallen – but please stay within your ‘bubble’.”

Thinking more locally, the Waitaki District Council has encouraged people who live near our special memorial oak trees to place a poppy by one of these trees. If you are curious to know more about the person your chosen tree commemorates then the Online Cenotaph managed by Auckland Museum is very helpful. One of the trees nearest to my ‘bubble’ is on Towey Street. It commemorates Captain J. Rodgers who died in 1917. Searching on the cenotaph database shows this tree is for Jesse Rodgers. From this page you can find out more about the person’s life and service. Most records are also linked to the original personnel file for the serviceperson which can be fascinating and often sombre reading. Jesse’s personnel file records that he was working for Bulleid’s when he enlisted, amongst other details. You can also add information and images to this website.

I have spent some time this week linking cenotaph entries to the memorial oak plaques that we have on our collections online website. Some trees commemorate people who served with the British or Australian Forces. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site can be useful for tracing these people. We don’t have all the original plaques in our collection but you may find the one for the tree near you. While you are on our site you can also view the military medals in our collection.

If you don’t have a tree near you, it is possible to place virtual poppies on the cenotaph website. I will be placing them for my relatives on Saturday. Other ideas include creating your own special memorial poppy or wreath for your fence or the window of your home. I can already see some up in my neighbourhood.

If you are supporting children to learn more about Anzac Day there are a lot of good websites. This one is about Isabel Clark and it guides older students through how to research a service person. Our Culture Waitaki website has a series of blogs on different local World War One stories that relate to the collections of our museum and archive.

However you choose to reflect on Anzac Day I hope that, while it will be different from usual, you feel able to commemorate the day in a way that is meaningful for you.

Chloe Searle