Limitoo News

Weta brought in to commemorate an Anzac legend

The story of how a New Zealand batallion liberated the small French town of Le Quesnoy from German occupation in 1918, using ladders to scale the fortress walls, is still celebrated in France, and now Weta are building a memorial.

It's one of the most appealing stories from World War I - certainly featuring New Zealand troops - though it's surprisingly not as commonly known here as Gallipoli or the Battle of the Somme.

But it's different in Le Quesnoy where the streets reflect their enthusiasm for Aotearoa. Streets like Rue de la Nouvelle Zélande, Rue Hélène Clark and Place des All Blacks.

Now finally we're setting up a commemoration of how New Zealand soldiers liberated the town without the loss of a single civilian life.

The New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust has employed Weta Workshop's Andrew Thomas to lead the project, fresh off a similarly huge undertaking - the New Zealand Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai.

Lynn Freeman talked with Thomas about the project.

The brief was for a 'living memorial', which that will help it stand out from so many other memorials throughout Europe, Thomas said.

"We saw it as a challenge... it excited us extremely, the whole idea that it wasn't a static almost sort of neo-classical memorial that was distant and looking to the past, but a place that respectfully reflects and remembers and even celebrates that side of the story, but also very much a place of today and a catalyst that ignites conversations.

"We see this as an activation, not a place where things stop."

Thomas did not reveal specifics about what the memorial will look like, but said as with the team's work on larger-than-life Gallipoli models it will put the people it is memorialising up front using close-ups, then unfold the story.

The ongoing relationship between Le Quesnoy and New Zealand is "extraordinary" he said, and based on events that are so dramatic they almost sound fictional.

"The extraordinary story where the soldiers scaled the wall and came into the town after four years captivity by the Germans.

"There's this incredibly strong bond and relationship between these two worlds. The primary school is named after Leslie Avery, who was the first guy up the ladder and he's visited the town over the years as well."

The team are working closely with subject experts to ensure the information behind their work is accurate.

"We love the idea of story and story-telling, and certainly the whole cinematic qualities and theatre that you can bring to story-telling... in a way that people are very much feeling part of that story.. and picking up the emotions of the event and the day."

RNZ also marked the centenary commemorations for the town's liberation, which were held in 2018.

source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/2018839304/weta-is-brought-in-to-commemorate-an-anzac-legend