Wartime history wall all but done

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New Zealand wartime history is once again bursting forth in colour on a wall of the Gore RSA building.

In 2017 Dunedin mural painter Daniel Mead completed paintings on three of the eight panels but other commitments prevented him from finishing the job.

The panels are 2m by 2m and face Fairfield St.

Late last year artist Chris Wilkie, of Opua Harbour, started work on the rest of the panels and will finish the last one next week.

The project is being co-ordinated by returned serviceman Aaron Horrell, of Mandeville.

Mr Horrell said he saw a mural on the Mosgiel RSA and approached the Gore branch to see if it was possible to do the same here.

“I asked them if I could come up with a design for the wall to create a timeline of our military history,” Mr Horrell said.

His idea was for people to view the panels on Anzac Day and reflect on New Zealand’s involvement in wars.

They would also give school pupils studying the subject a better understanding of what war was like.

“Pictures paint a thousand words and when all the panels are together, people can actually see the progression of uniforms, weaponry, sophistication, all in one.”

Mr Horrell worked first with Mr Mead and then Mr Wilkie to create the design.

“We wanted to incorporate as much as we could without flooding the panels and we had to go with major operations and wars ’cause it was very hard to incorporate every single operation we’ve been in on overseas.”

They chose conflicts where New Zealand troops made a major contribution.

“The peacekeeping panel is going to cover deployments including East Timor, Sinai, Bosnia and the Solomons.”

Many of the people depicted in the mural were from the Gore district or surrounding area, he said.

“The RSA said it would be good to have local faces up there so people could recognise them – it brings more meaning to the panels.”

Many people did not realise there were more than 25,000 veterans of modern overseas deployments, he said.

“Everyone thinks a veteran is a grand-dad. A veteran can be as young as 18.”

He expected the final panel, which was still to be painted, would be the most powerful.

“The last panel will be of importance to show the public that a veteran’s journey begins as a young man or woman and ends as a grandparent,” Mr Horrell said.

Mr Wilkie said he had enjoyed working on the project.

“I’ve got bit of a bent for history.”

Many people had stopped to chat while he painted, including some of those depicted in the mural.

“I like interfacing with the people and finding out local history.”

It took him about a week to complete a panel.

Timeline…The mural on the Gore RSA building will have eight panels depicting aspects of New Zealand’s wartime history when it is finished. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON