The majority of the 74 Carillon bells were gifted by families to honour their loved ones who died in the First World War, with the rest dedicated to battles, military units, and related groups.
Commissioned and donated by Wellington City Council as part of its WW100 commemorations, the Wellington’s Bell Stories display provides an interactive visual and audio experience, with an in-depth look at the stories behind five of the Carillon bells donated by Wellingtonians.
The permanent display located in the National War Memorial foyer will add to the overall experience of the more than 60,000 visitors each year, says Mayor Justin Lester.
“For the past four years we have been commemorating the Great War through numerous projects, events, and ceremonies in our WW100 programme – all of which have acted as a reminder of the massive toll the First World War took on the country, the capital, and its communities.
“This display is a permanent remembrance, and also an engaging way to find out more about the significance of the bells, and the stories behind the names they’re dedicated to,” says Mayor Lester.
Paul James, Chief Executive Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, is pleased to see the Carillon earthquake strengthened and restored to its former glory.
“It’s been a long process, involving a dedicated team of experts overseeing this remarkably detailed operation, and thanks to them we can now celebrate the bells’ return.
“The National War Memorial Carillon is integral to Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. dedicated to the more than 250,000 New Zealanders who have served overseas and in some cases sacrificed their lives in conflicts and peace-keeping operations,” says Paul James.
A number of descendants of the dedicated bells will attend the event, which Wellington City Councillor Andy Foster has played a part in.
“It’s been a concerted effort between the Ministry of Culture and Council to track down these living descendants to further honour their relatives during this ceremony.
“The bell stories and reopening of the renovated Carillon are fitting tributes and a modern day reminder of our commitment to reflect and remember those who sacrificed their lives over 100 years ago,” adds Councillor Foster.
The unveiling of Wellington’s Bell Stories visitor display on Wednesday 30 May takes place in the National War Memorial Hall, in the presence of Hon Grant Robertson and His Worship Justin Lester Mayor of Wellington.
The unveiling will be followed by a Return of the Bells Carillon recital at 4.15pm by National Carillonist, Timothy Hurd QSM, to celebrate the completion of a four-year restoration of the National War Memorial Carillon.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the recital which will be followed by the daily Last Post ceremony.
In 1928, the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society gifted 49 bronze bells to the Government for use in a National War Memorial. Together they would form a carillon, a musical instrument made-up of bells, usually housed in a bell tower, or campanile.
Four years later, on Anzac Day 1932, the 50-metre-high carillon was dedicated. Although it is a national memorial, the original 49 bells were private donations. Thirty-three were dedicated to individuals; the remainder carried the names of battles, military units or other groups. Additional bells were added later, bringing the total to 74 and expanding the range of the instrument to six octaves.
The five Wellington bells featuring in the display
In remembrance of 2nd Lt Leslie Beauchamp, brother of Katherine Mansfield, who died in a grenade accident in Flanders.
The nurses’ bell
This bell is dedicated to all the brave nurses who died during the First World War.
Commemorating Captain Percy Skelley, who died on the Western Front in Northern France just months before the end of the war.
For Captain Ateo Frandi, who died in one of the Battles of Krithia as part of the bloody Gallipoli campaign.
In memory of Private Robert Cook, who died in a stationary hospital, after being wounded in France.
Note: Captain Frandi has also been honoured in a series of memorial street signs launched in 2014. Visit Wellington’s memorial street signs story map to find out more.