August 5, 2014 … and now we lie in Flanders fields*

Wonderful opportunities arose yesterday.

Battery

A cool grey morning and a battery of 105mm L118 light guns is ready to fire the hundred gun salute

It was a day of solemn memories in New Zealand, marking as it did, the 100th anniversary of our country’s entry into the first world war. A 100 gun salute was to be fired on the waterfront near Te Papa. The day started cool and grey, but I set out to get an early position near the battery of 105mm howitzers that were to fire the salute. Ten guns were lined up and each was to fire ten (blank) rounds. One hundred shots at five second intervals would take eight minutes and twenty seconds. As I said, I arrived early and was exploring the possibilities and viewpoints when I was approached by a kind stranger who said he was about to take his boat out from the marina and would observe proceedings from just offshore. He asked if I would care to join him. Wow! Would I?

Harbour

The harbour was delightfully still

There was still some time to fill before he cast off, so I recorded the conditions. It was very still and quite cool, and the harbour was flattening to that lovely slightly oily look that gives wonderful reflections. My friends from yesterday, the fluttering shearwaters, were at rest out on the water, and I wondered how long they would linger when the firing started. Young soldiers were handing out free earplugs to anyone who wanted them, and setting up barriers to ensure than no members of the public were permitted within 50 metres of the guns once the salute commenced.

Chaffers

The marina was just perfect, and I am not worried by the photo-bombing gull

With my new-found friend, I went over to Clyde Quay to the outermost finger of Chaffers Marina. Conditions were improving rapidly, and I grabbed a shot of the reflections among the boats. I was photo-bombed by a passing gull, but I think it adds to the image.

arriving on station

My kind host at the helm of his sturdy and beautifully kept boat

The boat was a sturdy working boat, a former crayfish boat from Oamaru. Its owner had restored it beautifully to a condition far in excess of what it looked like as a working boat. She was not spectacular or glamorous, but every detail was superbly executed with good old-fashioned craftsmanship.  The diesel engine started at first turn of the key and soon we were backing out and cruising gently about a hundred metres in front of the guns.  A police launch and the harbour master’s boat were there to enforce a fifty metre safety zone, but we didn’t trouble them. As we waited, I could see the scrum as hundreds jostled for unimpeded viewpoints and was doubly grateful for the random act of generosity  by my host.  By now, the sun was fully out and the grey day had evaporated. Brilliant.

Firing

The salute continues … and as it does, the smoke gets more dense

And then it started. A quick glance revealed that the shearwaters  instantly departed. Most of the visual effects were smoke. Though many others caught pictures of the muzzle blast I was completely unsuccessful in making any image of the flame. I counted to four after the preceding blast and then fired at eight frames per second. Despite a few hundred images, I caught no flame. However, the muzzle brake of the L118 light gun forces the smoke into an interesting trefoil and I got many shots of that.

manhandling

A hundred years ago, the predecessors of these young men and women were on their way to the great adventure and expected to be home by Christmas. Of those that left, 18,000 died, and 40,000 were injured … a huge toll on a small country

When at last the hundred shots were done, two of the guns were manhandled out from behind the barriers so that the people could have a closer look.

Parliament

… the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.

We got back to our mooring and I wanted to buy my host morning tea or coffee but he declined. He did, however, accept a ride to parliament grounds where he wanted to see the observances there. Even in this, he did me a favour and I saw the memorial field of 100 crosses laid out on the lawn of parliament’s grounds.

It was a sombre day but a good one.

* In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

 

 

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About wysiwygpurple

I am a family man, a passionate amateur photographer and a retired academic . What's the purpose of this blog? Well in the first instance it provides me with a platform from which to resume writing, an activity I greatly enjoy. What will the blog be about? Anything that takes my fancy but it is likely to arise from things I see and experience, in my family, in my travels, or anything else I feel like. Each daily post will contain one or more images made the previous day. Sometimes the image will illustrate the points made in the prose, and sometimes the prose will attempt to interpret the image. What kind of images will they be? Always safe for work and family. Usually they will be representational, and sometimes they will be impressionistic or experimental.
This entry was posted in adversity, Birds, harbour, History, Landscapes, Rescue, Weather, Wellington. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to August 5, 2014 … and now we lie in Flanders fields*

  1. Adam Rosner says:

    For a short duration, this will be your last post… (sorry couldn’t resist!)
    Amazing photos, you were in the right place at the right time It would have been quite loud out there on the water I expect!

  2. Pamela Rothschild says:

    Lovely photos to remember such a sad event. What a wonderfully nice man to offer you
    a ride on his beautiful boat, its lovely to know such kind people are still out there. Thanks for the facts and figures, I hadn’t realised that NZ paid such a heavy price.

  3. avidarmeh says:

    love the photo of the battery at dawn

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